What Can You Do With a Master of Divinity Degree? 15 Job Options [+ Salary Expectations]

If you’re exploring Master of Divinity programs, you likely have more than a job in mind. Many people who enter MDiv programs have goals that transcend a specific career path or salary. They may feel a deep calling to explore and grow in their faith, with the intention of actively embodying spiritual teachings and using their faith to help others. 

That said, it helps to know what the professional landscape looks like for Master of Divinity holders. Read on for degree components, career options, and important considerations.

What Is a Master of Divinity Degree?

MDiv Curriculum & Learning Outcomes 

Types of MDiv Degrees 

Skills Developed in an MDiv Program 

Career Options with a Master of Divinity [+ Salary]

Is a Master’s in Divinity Worth It?

Benefits of Pursuing an MDiv Degree

FAQs About Master of Divinity Careers

Is a Master of Divinity Right For You?

What Is a Master of Divinity Degree?

A Master of Divinity, shortened to MDiv, is the most common professional graduate degree earned in theological schools and seminaries in the U.S. 

Practicing Christian clergy members typically hold an MDiv and have completed the process of ordination, or the formal approval to perform religious rites and ceremonies within a church. Most Master of Divinity programs are based in Christianity, though some seminaries and theological schools offer specializations in other faiths. American MDiv programs are accredited by the Association of Theological Schools of the United States and Canada (ATS)

Academic components of an MDiv program include the study of Scripture, theology, ethics, religious literature, church history, and the ministerial arts, including preaching and church leadership. Becoming an ordained clergy person is not the only option for Master of Divinity jobs; graduates go on to become lay (unordained) ecclesial ministers, teachers, spiritual counselors, chaplains, retreat leaders, and more.   

A typical Master of Divinity program takes three years to complete on a full-time class schedule. Since the MDiv is a more technically practical degree than a Master of Theological Studies or Master of Arts in Ministry, there is often a fieldwork component. 

It is important to note that completing an MDiv degree does not entitle graduates to ordination. Ordination is a separate process overseen by a committee of religious leaders, who, depending on their church or denomination, may have requirements and expectations beyond those of an academic program.

MDiv Curriculum & Learning Outcomes

No matter the church or denomination, MDiv programs are designed to help graduates develop the skills and knowledge necessary to lead a religious community. 

Common program goals include: 

  • In-depth knowledge of relevant religious doctrines and Scripture 
  • The ability to interpret and apply theological concepts in diverse contexts, both religious and cultural 
  • Clear demonstration of empathy, objectivity, and compassionate understanding
  • The ability to establish and maintain personal boundaries, practice sensitivity and self-preservation, and demonstrate the responsible exercising of authority  
  • Excellent written and verbal communication skills, including public speaking 
  • The demonstrated ability to lead, counsel, resolve conflict, solve problems, and interface with people of all backgrounds  
  • A mindset of openness, collaboration, cultural sensitivity, and mutual respect 
  • Focused expertise in a specific area of theology or ministerial practice, as demonstrated in a graduate thesis 

Courses will vary across institutions, religions, and specializations, but generally include some version of the following:

  • Church history
  • Study and interpretation of spiritual texts
  • Liturgy
  • Theology
  • Philosophy
  • Ethics and morality
  • Ecclesiology (the study of the church) 
  • Ancient languages 
  • Church leadership 
  • Worship practices
  • Personal spiritual formation 
  • Field ministry assignments  

As our world grows ever more connected and societal standards continue to evolve, more seminaries and theological schools are adding courses on:

  • Religion in cultural context
  • Contemporary spiritual views and practices
  • Multicultural ministry
  • Social justice issues and activism 
  • Religion in the digital age

As with most graduate programs, MDiv candidates will need to complete a thesis, though some may instead be required to complete a residency in a church, hospital, counseling center, or other setting.

Types of MDiv Degrees

Master of Divinity degrees are available within most major world religions including Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, and Hinduism. Most seminaries and theological schools in the U.S. base their academics in Christianity, though many programs welcome students of all religious backgrounds. 

Whether their school is Catholic, Protestant, or non-sectarian, MDiv candidates may be able to specialize even further in areas like:

  • Biblical studies 
  • Ancient languages
  • Church history 
  • Christian ethics
  • Race, spirituality, and cultural identity
  • Youth and family ministry
  • World religions
  • Music ministry

Theological schools may also offer electives, or encourage students to take classes through a partner or parent university. MDiv courses can be complemented by classes in nonprofit management, counseling, humanitarian aid, social justice, or gender studies, among others.

Skills Developed in an MDiv Program

MDiv candidates develop both “hard” and “soft” skills tailored to jobs in the clergy and beyond. 

Practical (hard) skills: 

  • Ministerial arts 
  • Counseling
  • Public speaking
  • Critical thinking
  • Research
  • Writing
  • Organization

Interpersonal (soft) skills: 

  • Empathy
  • Active listening
  • Self-preservation
  • Objectivity
  • Openness

Career Options with a Master of Divinity [+ Salary Expectations]

Master of Divinity holders do not always go on to ordination and church leadership. Many of the skills developed in an MDiv program — like critical thinking, communication, and leadership — lend themselves well to other professions. 

The careers listed below are only a partial representation of what MDiv recipients can do. Bear in mind that some of these positions require additional degrees or licensure. Salaries are estimated based on Indeed averages in early 2023, and vary widely by employer, region, and the candidate’s experience. Please note that salaries continually fluctuate based on changing data. 

PositionSalary
Ordained ministry
priest, pastor, minister, etc.
$46,283
Chaplain
in a hospital, prison, the military, in law enforcement, etc.
$62,102
Religious education teacher
at a religious school, in a church, at a camp, etc.
$44,455
Ministerial associate
serves under or in place of a lead pastor
$51,250
University professor 
requires a PhD or Doctor of Ministry
$58,263
Lay ministry 
for unordained individuals who wish to provide ministerial support in a church
$57,500
Missionary
to spread faith outside a formal church setting
$39,396
Youth ministry
at a summer camp, community center, in a religious education program, etc.
$36,698
Counselor 
requires further study and licensure, e.g. Licensed Mental Health Counselor, Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker, etc.
$33,854
Administrative work 
in a church, missionary, relief agency, etc.
$39,957
Retreat program director
administration, group leadership, program development, etc.
$63,956
Researcher
at a university, for an author, etc.
$76,670
Author
theological texts, children’s books, memoirs, self-help books, etc.
$43,484
Inspirational or motivational speaker
for universities, corporations, the media, nonprofits, etc.
$37,492
Community organizing 
organize and mobilize communities to act in service of a common cause
$50,752

Again, those who earn MDiv degrees often prioritize spiritual and personal fulfillment over earning potential. The ability to help others and develop a closer relationship with one’s faith is worth far more than a paycheck.

Is a Master’s in Divinity Worth It?

A Master of Divinity program is the ideal preparation for effective church leadership. If you intend to guide or counsel people in exploring their spirituality, an MDiv will give you the tools necessary to do so with sensitivity and confidence. 

Earning an MDiv can cost anywhere from $15,000 to $35,000 per year or more, depending on the school and program format. There are many scholarships and funding opportunities available, furnished either by the schools themselves or by independent organizations. All graduate applicants are encouraged to see whether they qualify for federal financial aid.   

You may be questioning whether a certain school or program is right for you. Some programs will have different goals and learning outcomes than others, especially if they teach from different Christian denominations. The Master of Divinity program at the Franciscan School of Theology (FST), for example, frames all course content within the Franciscan Catholic charism — a joy-filled tradition that emphasizes a heart of service, solidarity, respect, and the beauty of God’s creation. The program is designed to help students achieve the following: 

  • Deepen their knowledge of the fundamental documents and heritage of the Roman Catholic Church
  • Interpret, analyze, and thoughtfully discuss Scripture and religious texts
  • Understand, research, and debate concepts of systematic theology, ethics, morality, and philosophy 
  • Build practical skills in ministerial leadership through pastoral training, liturgical preparation, preaching, supervised field education, and experiences with diverse cultural groups
  • Develop an understanding of and sensitivity to different spiritual and cultural backgrounds
  • Gain a contextual understanding of the Catholic Church’s mission and function in contemporary society 
  • Experience personal and spiritual growth and integration through theological reflection
  • Develop a personal ministry statement

If you do intend to pursue ordination following completion of your MDiv, make sure your chosen program is accredited by the ATS

Benefits of Pursuing an MDiv Degree

The benefits of earning and applying a Master of Divinity degree are wide-ranging and profound. Whether or not you go on to become an ordained member of the clergy, you may find that earning an MDiv can help you: 

  • Develop a deeper understanding of and connection to your spiritual practice 
  • Examine your faith from new and enlightening angles
  • Connect academic principles to faith practice
  • Share and discuss your religious viewpoints with others
  • Stay open to differing experiences and opinions 
  • Improve your public speaking and teaching skills
  • Expand your network of religious professionals
  • Gain access to valuable ministerial resources
  • Learn how to counsel people in need
  • Develop a sense of purpose in your personal and professional life

FAQs About Master of Divinity Careers

Do I have to be religious to get an MDiv?

Being aligned with a particular religion isn’t required at a non-sectarian theological school. However, degree candidates should be aware that all course content at a Catholic or Baptist theological school, for example, will be delivered through the lens of that faith tradition. Study of the appropriate texts and doctrines is required. 

What is the difference between spiritual and religious?

A “spiritual but not religious” person may be unaffiliated with a particular church or faith, but feel guided by a power greater than themselves in their individual practice. A religious person likely practices a specific faith tradition and shares the beliefs held therein. Spirituality, and the act of being spiritual, is also used to describe any aspect of religious practice. 

Do I have to be Catholic to study at FST?

No, you do not have to be a practicing Catholic to attend the Franciscan School of Theology. Students should be aware, though, that all course content is informed by the teachings of St. Francis and Clare of Assisi, and some familiarity with Catholic doctrine is recommended. 

Do I need to learn a foreign language in an MDiv program?

Some, but not all, MDiv programs have a foreign language component. Since ancient texts were written in languages other than English (some of them dead languages), students may be encouraged to learn Latin or Ancient Greek to read the original texts as the creators intended. This is not a requirement for all MDiv programs, though foreign language may be offered as a specialization. 

Will my faith be challenged in an MDiv program? 

The frank answer is — it might be. Master of Divinity programs are academic and comprehensive, meaning that they incorporate elements of philosophy, ethics, morality, debate, social issues, and critical analysis. In discussing the meanings of ancient texts or the intentions of religious authority figures, MDiv candidates will be asked to think critically, and may be challenged by others who come to different conclusions. Faculty at accredited theological schools and seminaries are well-versed in leading and moderating constructive discussions, as well as helping students consider their faith in a new light. 

Is a Master of Divinity Right For You?

If all the details, benefits, and possibilities discussed above help affirm your desire to earn your Master of Divinity at FST, connect with a member of our admissions team for more information. Fill out the Request Info form here to get started.

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