How to Choose a Program

With so many degree options it can be difficult to know which degree program is right for you. In making this choice, the most important factor is determining what you want to do after you receive your degree. While every program contains a similar core set of classes, they are specially tailored to train you for success in particular vocational areas. In addition to the basic information on this page, follow the links for each program to find out more information about the strengths, courses, faculty, and classroom experience for each degree program.

The Graduate School of Theology offers the Master of Divinity (M.Div.), five Master of Arts (M.A.) degrees: Christian Ministry, New Testament, Old Testament, Global Service, and History & Theology, and the Doctor of Ministry (D.Min.). These degrees can be broadly broken down into two types: ministry-oriented degrees and research-oriented degrees.

The ministry-oriented programs are specially geared towards training students to be more effective:

  • congregational ministers
  • associate ministers
  • non-profit/social justice ministry workers
  • urban ministers
  • missionaries (in both traditional and emerging/non-traditional settings)
  • college and seminary professors
  • vocational ministers 

Research-oriented degrees are designed especially for:

  • students who desire to pursue a Ph.D.
  • ministers or church leaders seeking a deeper understanding in a specific theological field, such as the biblical text, history, or theology.

To better understand which degree program is right for you, continue reading for more information about the GST's program options and then visit each program's website to learn more about their unique strengths, emphases, faculty, and students!

Ministry-oriented Degrees
The ministry-oriented degrees offered in the GST are the Master of Divinity, Master of Arts in Christian Ministry, Master of Arts in Global Service, and the Doctor of Ministry.

The Master of Divinity is the primary formational degree to nurture a person in preparation for ministry. It entails a course load of 84 hours covering the study of Scripture, the history of Christianity, biblical languages, systematic theology, and Christian missions. Students are taught to integrate the classroom learning experience into their ministry through contextual education and pathways projects. As such, the M.Div. is especially designed for several groups of people: traditional congregational ministries, chaplaincy, emerging ministries and church planting, international missions, and social justice ministries.

For those interested in missions in its many forms, the Master of Divinity also has an optional “missions track” that is tailored towards an increased number of missions courses. The GST’s M.Div. is unique in this respect because it provides students preparing for mission work to have as great a focus in missional leadership and theology as any program in the United States.

The two ministry-oriented Master of Arts degrees, Christian Ministry and Global Service, are able to be completed either as a non-residential/distance program or as a residential program. The M.A. in Christian Ministry is especially geared for people who want to be associate ministers or for leaders in churches and ministries who may not desire an official or professional role in a ministry.  The Global Service degree is designed to equip students for ministries that require living, working, and communicating in the intercultural contexts typical of today's global society.

The Doctor of Ministry is also available as a way for students who already possess an M.Div. and have experience in their ministry vocation to continue their education. It is a terminal degree in ministry focused on cultivating an increase in theological knowledge, spiritual formation, and competence in the art of analytical thinking about ministry situations. It is deeply practical and contextual and requires a culminating project thesis centered around a student's current ministry practice.

Research-oriented Degrees
While every degree program in the GST has an emphasis on academic excellence, the GST offers three degrees that are specifically oriented towards academic research with the goal of preparing students for Ph.D. work. The programs are intentionally small, allowing professors to better mentor students in their research and writing, providing the tools and experience necessary to be accepted and succeed in the top Ph.D. programs around the world.

In Biblical Studies, there are Master of Arts degrees in both New Testament and Old Testament. In both degrees students will be oriented to primary sources, including extensive linguistic study, culminating in a thesis.

The M.A. in History & Theology contains separate tracks for students interested in historical studies or theological studies. In the History track, students are oriented to the story of Christianity in order to gain a greater historical consciousness through the study of ancient and modern cultures with an eye towards its future trajectories. The theology track introduces students to ancient and contemporary theology through a focus on particular theological and philosophical issues with a strong emphasis on analytical reasoning. As such, it is designed to prepare students for future work in a wide range of areas such as systematic theology, ethics, philosophy, or religious studies.  Both programs also require a thesis.

Multiple Degrees
Many students find that their academic or vocational interests stretch across more than one degree program. It is common for students to pursue multiple degrees in order to better prepare for a host of vocational possibilities.

The GST affords students flexibility when it comes to pursuing multiple degrees. Students can either combine degrees within the GST or combine a GST degree with another graduate degree from ACU's Graduate School.

When two degrees are combined within the GST, the student is allowed to share up to 27 hours between the two. Many students take advantage of this by combining an M.Div. with one of the research Master of Arts degrees. With seven additional classes and a thesis, students can leave ACU with both an M.Div. and an M.A. Students who desire to teach in a seminary or undergraduate ministry program are especially encouraged to go this route.

When a degree in the GST is combined with a praxis-oriented degree from ACU's Graduate School, the student is able to share 9-18 hours of the two degrees. Historically, students have combined an M.Div. or M.A.C.M. with the Master of Marriage and Family Therapy or the Master of Science in Social Work, but any praxis-oriented degree could potentially be combined with a formational degree in the GST. Combining one of the GST degrees with a degree outside of the department provides an opportunity for advanced training for those who have broad interests, who desire to improve their ministry through certification or training in other disciplines, and for people who want a honed theological consciousness in their profession.

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