Masters of Divinity vs. Masters of Theology: What’s the Difference?

Selecting a degree path is both an exciting and nerve-wracking experience. Students enter a program with an eye towards their future career choice, and for those looking at entering a life of active ministry, they want to begin that journey sooner rather than later. As such, students might be wondering about the Masters of Divinity vs. Masters of Theology debate, and which of those two degrees should mark the start of an academic career.  

As they say, “knowledge is power,” so prospective students should begin with an understanding of the overall educational hierarchy of theocratic knowledge. Grounded with this information, an understanding of the differences between the Masters of Divinity degree (MDiv) and Masters of Theology (ThM) degrees become clear.

Climbing the Academic Ladder of Success

All programs have an academic ladder of success established to provide the knowledge that students need to succeed in their chosen career path. That is especially true of those seeking a life dedicated to pastoral care and active ministry. Degree programs layer the skills and knowledge needed to succeed academically and professionally in a hierarchy of basic and advanced degrees.

While the sheer number of Christian denominations operating in the United States defies a single theological approach, certain Christian benchmarks exist across the spectrum like detailed studies of both the Old Testament and New Testament, as well as biblical interpretation, Evangelism, spiritual development, missions, and applied discipleship.

For the majority of established Christian denominations across North America, the MDiv degree is the gateway degree for entering a career in Christian fellowship.

The Masters of Divinity (M.Div.)

Of the Masters of Divinity vs. Theology debate, the Master of Divinity is the most common seminary degree, comparable to the Bachelor of Arts within secular educational institutions. This makes the degree the initial entry point for most seminary students.

Typically, the MDiv is the minimal requirement for pastoral ordination and characteristically trains students to perform chaplain duties effectively, counseling, as well as fulfilling an array of pastoral and missionary roles.

Additionally, students looking at a secular career in family counseling, an MDiv degree conveys instant credibility.

In terms of the whole Masters of Divinity vs. Masters of Theology question, the “vs” aspect of the question has far more to do with progression rather than value. While many seminary students will stop their studies at the MDiv, others elect to move on to attain the ThM after completing their initial degree studies.

The Masters of Theology Degree

The ThM is generally the next step in the academic ladder from the MDiv. It’s not uncommon for students to begin their careers after receiving their ThM, but some continue to other advanced degrees within the seminary field—like a PhD.

Studies within this degree field focus on an understanding of Christian thought through a close reading of the sacred texts and placing those readings in a broader context that involve language history, church history, global studies, hermeneutics, ethics, and apologetics.

So then, the ThM is more an academic exercise. The best description of a ThM is as the “book learning” behind a seminary career.

A Seminary Degree from North Greenville University

The T. Walter Brashier Graduate School is conveniently located in Greer, South Carolina, North Greenville University seeks to offer a superior education amidst an authentic Christian environment designed to prepare transformational leaders for a successful life of service in church and society. Combining cultural enrichment, spiritual growth, and hands-on service, NGU is making a difference for their students.

Learn More About Our MDiv Program


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