FAQ: Seminary Questions at Every Step of the Process, Answered

This article appears in the Stories edition of the Calvin Seminary Forum

Learning About Seminary



What Is Seminary?

A seminary is a graduate school focusing on matters of religion and faith. Christian theological seminaries teach from a Christ-centered biblical and theological perspective.

What Does Seminary Mean?

The term seminary is derived from the Latin word “seminarium” meaning a nursery for plants. Indeed, seminary is a place for your faith to be cultivated and for you to grow as you are equipped for ministry.

What Is Seminary School Like?

At seminary, you will:

  • Learn: Learning occurs through a variety of formats, including discussion, research, lectures, and contextual learning (on-site, in your area of ministry).
  • Connect: Seminary provides many opportunities to meet people from all over the world, from fellow classmates to professors to community members.
  • Grow: Going through the experience of the seminary will help you grow personally and in the community with other followers of Christ.
  • Serve: All students at Calvin will be an important part of the seminary’s mission, as you experience formation in ministry.



As a learning community in the Reformed Christian tradition, Calvin Theological Seminary forms church leaders who cultivate communities of disciples of Jesus Christ. Our mission is to serve the Christian Reformed Church in North America and wider constituencies by preparing individuals for the biblically faithful and contextually effective ministry of the Word and by offering Reformed theological scholarship and counsel.

Since 1876, Calvin Theological Seminary has faithfully prepared leaders who nurture disciples and serve the church. Today, graduates of Calvin Seminary can expect to be ready for effective ministry in a rapidly-changing, multicultural world. Our vision presents what we aim to do at Calvin Seminary, and how we plan to accomplish our goals through the power of the Holy Spirit.

What Do You Study in Seminary?

Seminaries offer a wide degree of programs. For example, Calvin Theological Seminary offers certificates, master’s degrees, and doctoral degrees. See our full listing of degrees and programs.

All our teaching and formation grows from a shared understanding of God’s Word as articulated in the Reformed confessions. Reformed theology comes alongside three other key elements to cultivate Christ-centered ministry:

  • The Church
  • Cultural context
  • The whole person



We believe that theology is best learned in a vibrant community environment, removing barriers to make the subject matter more accessible and illuminative. Therefore, we:

  • Cultivate a learning environment of academic excellence and scholarship.
  • Provide innovative learning environments.
  • Create synergistic connections with our graduates and ministry leaders.
  • Nurture a community of hospitality.
  • Enrich the student experience with vital ministry partnerships.



We know that theological education at Calvin Seminary has accomplished its mission when graduates:

  • Preach and teach the Bible.
  • Grow in their pastoral identity.
  • Discern and engage ministry contexts.
  • Cultivate and lead communities of disciples.
  • Equip the church to renew communities for the glory of God.



Are Seminary Schools Accredited?

Calvin Theological Seminary is accredited by the Association of Theological Schools. However, not all seminaries are accredited. Accreditation is an important outside validation of an institution’s standards of excellence in learning.

Deciding to Go to Seminary



Should I Go to Seminary?

There are many things to consider when deciding whether to pursue a seminary education. It’s a good idea to consider your career goals, sense of calling, preferred learning style, and more.

Can You Be a Pastor Without Going to Seminary?

While some denominations allow pastors without seminary degrees, the Calvin Master of Divinity degree is a natural path to ordained ministry, including ordained ministry in the Christian Reformed Church in North America (CRCNA). The MDiv offers meaningful engagement in vocational formation, biblical languages, preaching, and more to richly equip pastors and other ministry leaders.

Do You Need a Degree to Go to Seminary?

Typically, a bachelor’s degree is required in order to be accepted to seminary. However, 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.

Should I Go to Seminary Right After College?

There are benefits to starting seminary right after college, including being equipped for ministry early and continuing the momentum that helps with studying and researching. There are also benefits to gaining ministry and other vocational experience before coming back to school, including a breadth of skills and financial savings. Many also attend seminary as a mid-life career change, bringing a variety of skills and experiences to their seminary education. In short, there is no wrong time to go to seminary!

How Long Is Seminary School?

The duration of your seminary study varies by degree and program. The typical length of some of our more popular programs at Calvin are:




How Hard Is It to Get Into Seminary?

At Calvin Theological Seminary, we take into account many factors in your admission, seeing you as a whole person and working with you to make your dream of seminary a reality. The best learning communities will be committed to getting to know you throughout the application process, finding out how your story will become a part of the seminary’s story.

What Can You Do with a Seminary Degree?

Within the traditional ministry, a seminary degree can prepare you for the following roles, and others, within the local and global church:

  • Pastor (traditionally equipped through an MDiv)
  • Youth pastor
  • Worship pastor
  • Church administrator
  • Denominational leader
  • Missionary
  • Chaplain



A seminary degree may also prepare you for roles outside of traditional ministry, such as:

  • Nonprofit administration and leadership
  • Teaching and educational roles
  • All roles enhanced by deep thinking, ethics, and purpose



Choosing a Seminary



How Much Does Seminary Cost?

To support Christian leaders like you, Calvin Theological Seminary awards $1.5 million in scholarships annually. In almost all cases, your funding level will stay consistent, year after year, throughout your degree program.

What Types of Seminary Degrees Can I Pursue?

Discover a variety of degrees focused on theology, ministry, and the Bible. Explore our full listing of degrees and programs.

Which Seminary Should I Go to?

Only you can decide which seminary is right for you. As you consider the practical details of seminaries and the programs they offer, also pray over your application(s), your acceptance(s), and your enrollment.

How Do I Apply for Seminary?

We’re excited to get to know you! Start your application today at our apply page.

How Should I Prepare for Seminary?

There are many ways to prepare your heart and mind for seminary.

1. Read and Learn About Your Calling

Learn in the broader Christian community as you read the works of thoughtful scholars. Suggested reads include:

  • For All God’s Worth: True Worship and the Calling of the Church by N.T. Wright
  • You Are What You Love by James K.A. Smith
  • Longing for More by Ruth Haley Barton
  • In the Name of Jesus: Reflections on Christian Leadership by Henri Nouwen




2. Pray and Study Scripture

Read the prayers and stories of Old and New Testament individuals and communities, learning from their walks with the unchanging God.

3. Ask for Prayer

Seek prayer for your seminary journey from faithful individuals and communities in your life.

More Questions?

If you still have questions, you may benefit from a free guide to continue your seminary search. Check out Calvin Theological Seminary’s guide to the seminary search, a complimentary resource for all who are considering theological education.