College/Seminary Selection Advice
Recently, I have had a number of people ask me about which college or seminary I would recommend. Some have even asked the difference between a college and a seminary.
Typically, undergraduate college results in either an Associate or Bachelor degree while a graduate college results in either a Master or a Doctoral degree. Seminaries exist to specifically educate people for ministry, much like medical schools exist to specifically educate physicians. For pastors, the most common seminary degree is the Master of Divinity, while some pastors continue their education and pursue either a professional or research doctorate. The minimum cumulative time to complete college/seminary leading to a terminal degree (doctorate) is 8-9 years.
While I don’t endorse a specific college/seminary, I do have some important reminders.
First, accreditation. Your education is an investment into your future. As such, it needs to hold value both professionally and academically. I recommend you select an academic institution that is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools/Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) and/or the Association of Theological Schools/The Commission on Accrediting (ATS). If your school is not accredited, chances are high your work there will not be transferable to another institution should you desire to continue your education. Schools that are not accredited are not held to specific standards and it makes you ask the question: Why are they not accredited?
Second, reputation. Some theological schools are considered liberal, and others conservative. While teaching may not affect your particular beliefs, your school of choice may affect future job opportunities. Schools that have a campus and offer on campus and online courses are typically reputable, if they are conservative and accredited. Schools that do not grant college degrees, or perhaps they grant only honorary degrees, are neither reputable nor accepted professionally. An honorary degree is offered as a gift to someone who has made a notable societal contribution (e.g. distinguished philanthropists, musicians, politicians, authors, and scientists), but it is not an earned degree and does not allow a person to claim they have earned a particular degree. (For example, Kermit the Frog was awarded an honorary doctorate degree in 1996 from Long Island University; Bill Gates received an honorary doctorate degree from Harvard University in 2007, yet he dropped out in 1975 without earning a degree.)
It is well known that you can “buy” a degree or in some cases get one for free. In 2015, we are more astute to a genuine academic process whereby a degree is earned from an accredited institution, perhaps more so than ever before. There are wonderful free and low cost educational opportunities out there, and they should be valued for what they are, and understood for what they are not. All educational processes do not result in a diploma or degree, nor should they. Obtain quality education, and judge for yourself the true quality, but search scrupulously before making an investment in your future by selecting a respectable college/seminary.