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Master of Arts in Religion Vs. Master of Divinity

Master of Arts in Religion and Master of Divinity degree programs vary in several different factors, including degree requirements, program length, and career outcomes. Compare and contrast these two degree programs below.

Comparing a Master of Arts in Religion to a Master of Divinity

Master of Arts in Religion

Master of Arts (MA) in Religion degree programs cover a fairly broad curriculum and are commonly available, typically take two years to complete, and may range from about 30 to 60 credits. Many of these programs are available in an online format and often offer various areas of concentration, such as church history, biblical studies, global studies, ethics, theology, church history, Asian religions, and critical comparative scriptures. Some of these degree programs may offer additional tracks of study, like Mormon, Coptic, or Zoroastrian studies, but students in MA in Religion programs typically take courses in religious theory, theology, history, biblical studies, and other electives that may provide a broad view of the Christian faith, as well as other religions. Some of these programs may require a final integrative paper, thesis, or other capstone experience to help students apply the knowledge they have learned throughout their studies. Graduates of MA in Religion degree programs may go on to pursue doctoral study in areas like theology, divinity, or other related areas, but some graduates may opt to immediately pursue careers in teaching, chaplaincy, non-profit management, or curating.

Master of Divinity

Master of Divinity (MDiv) degree programs are also commonly offered and may range from around 72 to 80 credits taken over around three years, although some programs may allow students to finish anywhere in anywhere between two and five years of study. Some of these degree programs are available in online or hybrid formats, but many include in-person ministry experience through internships, practicums, part-time apprenticeships or other field education requirements geared toward helping students interact with other ministers and providing examples of Christian service in action. Students in these programs typically take courses in areas like theology, Old Testament, New Testament, ministry, Christian ethics, and cultural contexts. A few of these programs may offer additional concentration areas, such as Biblical languages, discipleship ministries, or chaplaincy, and depending on the program and/or concentration, some students may be required to complete a thesis or other type of final assessment, such as a portfolio or project. Graduates with their MDiv may also go on to pursue doctoral study, but many graduates pursue careers in ministry and may take on roles as pastors, chaplains, Christian educators, or Christian school administrators.

Degree ProgramProgram LengthProgram RequirementsRelated Careers
Master of Arts in Religion2 yearsUndergraduate degree*Christian educator
*Non-profit manager
Master of Divinity3-5 yearsUndergraduate degree*Pastor
*Christian educator

Admission Requirements for Master of Arts in Religion and Master of Divinity Programs

Admission requirements for Master of Arts in Religion and Master of Divinity degree programs are fairly similar, but may vary by institution. Applicants to these programs typically need to have at least a bachelor's degree, although students with advanced degrees may also be accepted. Prospective students should also understand that some programs may require a minimum GPA, such as a 2.0 or higher, but GRE scores are not always required. Applicants to MDiv degree programs typically need to have at least one pastoral reference or recommendation letter. Although less common, there are some Master of Arts in Religion degree programs that may require a pastoral recommendation as well.

Other common application materials for Master of Arts in Religion and Master of Divinity degree programs include official transcripts from an accredited institution, proof of English proficiency for international students, a resume, a statement of purpose, a writing sample and/or essay responses. Some MDiv programs may also require essay responses that include information concerning a student's religious calling for their career and a religious autobiography that discusses their Christian experience, spiritual influences, relationship with Christ, and involvement in Christian service.

Although similar in some course topics, like theology, Biblical studies, and church history, Master of Arts in Religion and Master of Divinity degree programs vary in length, field experiences, and career preparation. MA in Religion programs are typically broader in nature, may offer a wide range of concentrations, only take two years to complete, and help prepare students for multiple career options, while MDiv programs typically take three years or more to complete, include more hands-on ministry experiences, and help prepare students for ordination in the Christian faith.