What Is Seminary School? A Complete Guide to Seminary

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

What Is Seminary School?

A seminary school, or seminary, is a graduate school studying theology, religion, and faith. Christian theological seminaries, such as Calvin Theological Seminary (CTS), teach from a Christ-centered biblical and theological perspective.

Seminary Definition

When you look at the etymology of the word “seminary,” the term is actually derived from the Latin word “seminarium,” referring to a nursery for plants. CTS alumni have found our seminary to be a place where faith can be cultivated, and all students can grow through personal, spiritual, and vocational formation.

What Is a Theological Seminary?

Theological seminaries tend to focus on a variety of areas, including preparing pastors-in-training for ordination. Ordination as Minister of the Word in the Christian Reformed Church in North America (CRCNA), for example, happens exclusively through seminary training.

Becoming a Pastor Without a Degree vs. Going to Seminary School


Can You Become a Pastor Without a Degree?

Yes, some denominations ordain pastors without a degree. The role of Commissioned Pastor in the CRCNA, for example, does not have a degree requirement.

However, the Calvin Master of Divinity (MDiv) degree is another path to ordained ministry in the CRCNA and other denominations. Calvin’s MDiv offers meaningful engagement in vocational formation, biblical languages, and preaching to richly equip ministry leaders and pastors across various Christ-centered traditions.

What Do You Learn in Seminary?

Seminaries can help you learn about a wide variety of topics in church history, the Bible, theology, and more. At CTS, your seminary learning can culminate in a certificate, master’s degree, or a doctoral degree.

CTS graduates benefits from these outcomes of seminary learning:

  • Preaching and teaching the Bible
  • Growing in their pastoral identity
  • Discerning and engaging ministry contexts
  • Cultivating and leading communities of disciples
  • Equipping the church to renew communities for the glory of God


Who Is Seminary for?

If you are sensing God’s call to seminary, ministry, or both, then seminary school is for you. Seminarians learn to love God and their neighbors more every year, while becoming vocationally equipped for their next step.

Seminary is for those jumping into ministry for the first time; those who already have ministry experience and want to further their theological education; and those who work outside of a traditional ministry context but see their work, in any sphere, as a vocation and calling from God.

For people in all of these situations, seminary is meaningful, and Calvin is here to support you every step of the way.

What Can You Do with a Seminary Degree?

While being a pastor is a common outcome of seminary, there are also many career options besides being a pastor, including:

  • Church administrator
  • Denominational leader
  • Missionary
  • Chaplain
  • Nonprofit administrator
  • Teacher or professor
  • Any role enhanced by deep thinking, ethics, and purpose


Seminary School Requirements

A bachelor’s degree is generally required for seminary admission. However, due to special circumstances, students without a bachelor's degree may be considered for admission to CTS, as is allowed by the Association of Theological Schools.

What Is Seminary School Like?

Seminary is a time to ask the hard questions—about theology, about community, and about yourself. At Calvin Theological Seminary, you will be immersed in deep learning, thoughtful discussions, and a community of genuine friendship and support.

Learning at CTS occurs through a variety of formats, including discussion, research, lectures, and thoughtfully tailored contextual learning through our Vocational Formation Office. All of this learning works together for whole-person formation, as you grow closer to God and become equipped for future ministry.

Types of Seminary Degrees

At seminary you will find a wide range of degrees focused on theology, ministry, and the Bible. CTS offers academic excellence and theological richness in all of our programs:

  • Doctor of Ministry (DMin): Explore your unique ministry context in a deeper way, through the support of a tight-knit group of dedicated students and experienced professors. This degree is designed for mid-career pastors and other ministry practitioners.
  • Doctor of Philosophy (PhD): Prepare for professorship and other academic roles as you compile focused research and scholarship in your area of interest. This degree is ideal for future professors and thought leaders who already hold a Master of Divinity, Master of Theological Studies, Master of Theology, or an equivalent degree.
  • Master of Divinity (MDiv): Become equipped for pastoral leadership and ordination in the CRCNA or another Christian denomination. Pursue this degree if you’re hoping to become a pastor or take on another role that includes preaching or teaching.
  • Master of Arts in Bible and Theology: Grow in your understanding of Christianity and its foundations. Consider this degree if you are interested in learning more about God and scripture for spiritual formation and vocational development.
  • Master of Arts in Christian Leadership: Be formed as a leader in your vocational field, whether that is ministry, the arts, education, business, or any other place you find yourself called. This program welcomes students with a variety of goals and can be customized to your specific vision.
  • Master of Theological Studies (MTS): Discover the Old and New Testaments, Greek language, Christian theology, and apologetics in depth. Prepare for future ministry in these areas, or engage this rich coursework as professional development for your current role.
  • Master of Theology (ThM): Build on your MDiv or MTS degree with further depth and specialization in your chosen area of research. This degree can be an opportunity for pastors and authors to grow in their theological interests and teaching, or it can serve as a preparatory step on the path to a PhD.
  • Certificate in Christian Leadership: Expand on your leadership skills through a streamlined certificate program, growing your God-given gifts and strengths for further ministry impact.


Programas En Español


CTS also offers programs exclusively in Spanish which, in the past, have included our Certificado en Cuidado de la Familia and Maestría en Cuidado de la Familia.

Types of Christian Graduate Programs


Online vs. On Campus Seminary

CTS offers students multiple course delivery options for our programs: in-person, fully online, and hybrid distance learning. See our program pages for course delivery options within your degree of choice.

While studying on campus, you can get to know your professors and fellow students more fully as you embrace your experience in seminary as not just a time of study, but a community to be a part of.

Online learning, in contrast, will allow you to remain rooted in your current community, including existing ministry opportunities.

Seminary vs. Divinity School

When comparing seminaries and divinity schools, you should know that divinity schools tend to be part of a university campus, while seminaries are separate institutions. Explore more about these two types of schools to find out which is right for you.

Learn More About Seminary School

Take the next step in exploring seminary! You’re invited to fill out the form below to start your CTS journey today:

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

More Seminary Resources


As you pursue seminary, check out these other complimentary resources from CTS: