The Master of Divinity Degree Program


Program Overview

The purpose of the Master of Divinity (MDiv) program is to prepare present and future ministry leaders to effectively lead the church and other ministries. It is designed for those preparing for vocational ministry, including the pastorate, intercultural service, Christian education, pastoral counseling, chaplaincy, evangelism, music and worship ministries, and related areas of service. Historically, the MDiv degree has been the recommended program for those preparing for ordination. It is also the foundational degree for the Doctor of Ministry program and other advanced degree programs oriented towards theological research and teaching.

The MDiv course of study, designed to assist the local church in the training and nurturing of godly leaders and pastoral theologians, is guided by five overarching educational values which the Seminary believes are essential to that objective. Those values are:

  • Outcome-based instruction
  • Spiritual and character formation
  • Mentor relationships
  • Church relatedness
  • Global and cultural awareness

Program Goals and Student Learning Outcomes

The Master of Divinity program goals include:

  • Develop students’ knowledge of the biblical and theological foundations of the Faith
  • Foster students’ spiritual life and moral integrity
  • Equip students’ capacity for cultural engagement
  • Expand students’ competencies for ministry leadership

The MDiv student learning outcomes encompass multiple dimensions of the graduate’s life and work. This means that the MDiv student’s educational experiences are intended to produce growth in knowledge, character, and skills for ministry. Many of these outcomes are best achieved and measured in the context of ministry rather than the classroom. Consequently, many of the educational experiences bring the classroom and the ministry context together in partnership to prepare the student for a life of effective ministry.

Program Learning Outcomes:

  • Students understand and integrate Scripture in decision making and problem solving.
  • Students exegete biblical texts competently from original languages.
  • Students effectively judge between competing ideas and apply theological truth.
  • Students exhibit a Christ-like integrity that encompasses their personal and public life.
  • Students are committed to an ongoing process of spiritual formation that is clearly grounded in the Gospel.
  • Students demonstrate cultural awareness in theological thinking and ministerial practice.
  • Students apply a biblical, missional, and transformational approach to ministry.
  • Students communicate biblical teaching that bridges the contextual nuances of Scripture and those of the audience.
  • Students empower God's people to engage their gifts in the work of ministry.
  • Students demonstrate mastery of the key principles of their chosen area of ministry through effective service in that area.

Admission Requirements

In addition to the general requirements for admission to the Seminary, applicants for the MDiv program must possess a four-year baccalaureate degree or its educational equivalent from a college or university accredited by a United States association holding membership in one of the six regional accrediting associations, membership in the Association of Universities and Colleges in Canada, membership in the Association for Biblical Higher Education, or from an institution which maintains similar academic requirements and standards. Additionally, MDiv applicants must present a GPA of 2.5 or higher, including a breadth of liberal arts. Applicants who do not meet these general academic requirements may petition the Admissions Committee for consideration. A recommendation from the applicant’s pastor and three personal recommendations regarding the applicant’s Christian character and leadership also are required.

Transfer Credit, Advanced Standing, and Residence Requirements

Upon approval by the registrar’s office, transfer of up to 41 hours credit is allowed toward the MDiv program from graduate institutions accredited by the Association of Theological Schools. Students must have earned a grade of B or higher for a course to be considered for transfer and coursework should normally have been completed no more than five years prior to matriculation to Western Seminary. Students may request to be assessed by exam for currency on courses to be transferred that are more than five years old. Transferability of credits earned at Western and transferred to another institution is at the discretion of the receiving institution.

Alternatively, students may receive advanced standing of up to 20 credit hours of the 41 credit hours of transfer credit allowed toward their program if they are able to demonstrate current competency in required coursework based on prior study (based on parallel undergraduate work or transfer credit that is ineligible for consideration based on age). Advanced standing is allowed for up to eight credits of the required BL courses (501, 502, 503) and eight credits of the required TH courses (501, 502, 503). They may qualify for four additional credits of advanced electives for the remaining credits in each of these required courses. Students can receive a maximum of six credits of advanced standing in NT and OT required courses. Consult the registrar’s office for information on eligibility of transfer credit and advanced standing.

Residence requirements for Portland, San Jose and Sacramento Campuses: Of the 82 credit hours required for the Master of Divinity program, a minimum of 41 credit hours must be completed through coursework completed at Western Seminary, with a minimum of 28 credit hours taken in resident study at one of Western Seminary’s physical campus locations.

Residence requirements for Online Campus only: Of the 82 credit hours required for the Master of Divinity program, a minimum of 41 credit hours must be completed through coursework at Western Seminary, with a minimum of 10 credit hours taken in the Online LIVE (synchronous web conferencing) format or 6 credit hours taken in resident study through the following specific courses and program orientation (Approved exception to ATS Standards A.3.1.3 and B.3.1.3):

Online LIVE Study Format

    • Students will take 10 Online LIVE credits of their choosing throughout the course of their degree.
    • International students taking 10 Online LIVE credits will not require a visa as they are not required to make a trip to campus.

Resident Study Format

    • During October, February, or June of a student's first academic year, the student must travel to Portland for one week to attend program orientation and two threshold courses, CS501 Learning to Love God and Others (2 credit hours) and MF501 Introduction to Theological Study and Ministry Formation. (2 credit hours).
    • During the student's final academic year, the student must return to Portland to attend the capstone course, TH504 Integrating Ministry and Theology (2 credit hours).
    • International students coming to the US on an F1 visa are required, because of US government regulation implications, to come for only one trip to the Portland Campus. This will generally be done in the June threshold week and will consist of the two threshold courses mentioned above as well as an additional two credit intensive class thus still equaling the 6 required residential courses.

Program Specializations and Concentrations

The intent of a ministry specialization is to equip the student with the skills, insights, and training experiences necessary for a distinctly defined ministry role. Ten credits of course work reflect a thoughtful blend of required courses and open electives designed to impart the character, knowledge, and skill outcomes deemed essential for each particular role. Additionally, Western Seminary offers Master of Divinity students the option to complete a Reformed Specialization that is intentionally designed to meet the needs of students pursuing ordination in a Reformed or Presbyterian denomination. This will involve a combination of Western Seminary courses, transfer credits from an approved seminary of the Reformed tradition, or individualized studies under the supervision of an approved ministry supervisor. Interested students are encouraged to contact the Academic Dean’s Office for further information.

The purpose of program concentrations is to provide a focused, intensive preparation in one narrow area of emphasis. They may be ministry-specific, academically-oriented, or a combination of both. Program concentrations consist of at least six credits of course work in one area of emphasis, chosen in consultation with one’s faculty advisor. Courses selected for a program concentration may not come from the core of the MDiv program. Program concentrations include:

  • Bible
  • Chaplaincy
  • Church and Culture
  • Church History
  • Church Planting
  • Christian Spirituality
  • Coaching
  • Educational Ministry
  • Evangelism
  • Family Ministry
  • Global Leadership
  • Greek
  • Hebrew
  • Intercultural Studies
  • Pastoral Care
  • Women's Transformational Leadership
  • Worship
  • Youth Ministry

Students may choose from among the concentrations listed above, or may propose a new concentration drawn from courses offered by Western Seminary (subject to approval). Appropriate course work from other graduate institutions might also be used in designing a concentration (subject to transfer credit provisions). These must be acceptable graduate-level work, with at least 50% of the credits being taken at Western. Students may complete both a ministry specialization and a program concentration, but no more than two hours of credit may overlap and be applied to both. No course may be applied to more than one concentration. Please consult with the Registrar’s Office for additional information.

Online Campus Students Please Note: The specific concentrations available to Online Campus students will depend on the list of courses currently available in online format and on the student's ability to travel to a physical campus to take courses if needed to complete the concentration.

Biblical Language Options

Students will be able to read the Bible as it was written and encounter the depths of meaning that can get lost in translation. In addition, students will learn the essential grammar and syntax of the biblical languages, be able to read advanced commentaries with greater understanding and be better equipped to evaluate said commentaries, articles and theological books on their own. Students will also learn to use various software to find word meanings, parsing, etc. 

Degree Requirements

Students may complete their studies in as few as six semesters, with a minimum of 82 credits required for graduation. The MDiv program requires a common core 70 credits including of biblical, theological, Christian formation, and applied ministry studies. In addition, students will take 10 credits of electives and mentored ministry approved by a faculty member.

The Master of Divinity degree is conferred upon the attainment of certain personal and academic requirements. In addition to the general seminary requirements, degree candidates must (1) give evidence of a genuine Christian character, orthodox belief, and conduct consistent with a God-given call to a position of leadership; (2) complete all courses in the prescribed MDiv curriculum with a minimum grade point average of 2.5.

All work leading to the Master of Divinity must be completed within six years from the time of matriculation. Permission to extend the six-year statute of limitation must be granted through submission of an academic petition. Reinstatement to the program after withdrawal requires Admissions Committee action and may subject the student to additional requirements for the degree. All credits applied toward the degree requirements earned within ten years of the awarding of the degree. Alternatively, new or re-entering students whose prior coursework exceeds the ten-year limit may request to demonstrate current competency by examination up to the advanced standing credit limitations for each degree program as specified elsewhere in this catalog.

Master of Divinity Curriculum Plan

Foundational Studies: 10 credits
BT501 Hermeneutics 2
BT502 Understanding Biblical Theology 2
CS501 Learning to Love God and Others 2
CS502 Growing in Prayer and Other Key Spiritual Disciplines 2
MF501 Introduction to Theological Study and Ministry Formation 2
Biblical Studies: 28 credits
BL501 Interpreting Genesis to Song of Solomon 4
BL502 Interpreting the Prophets and Gospel 4
BL503 Interpreting Acts to Revelation 4
NT521 Greek Grammar 3
NT522 Greek Reading and Syntax 3
NT523 Greek Syntax and Reading 2
OT521 Hebrew Grammar 3
OT522 Hebrew Grammar and Reading Narrative Texts 3
OT523 Hebrew Syntax and Reading 2
Theological Studies: 18 credits
CH501 Wisdom from Church History 4
TH501 Knowing the Living God: Theology I 4
TH502 Glorifying the Word of Life: Theology II 4
TH503 Living as the Community of the Spirit: Theology III 4
TH504 Integrating Ministry and Theology 2
Ministerial Studies: 18 credits
ML501 Theology and Practice of Gospel-Centered Ministry 2
ML502 -or- Transformational Leadership 2
WL504 Women in Leadership 2
ML503 Nurturing Faithful Disciples 2
ML504 Taking the Gospel to Diverse Cultures 2
ML505 Applied Pastoral Counseling: Caring for People in a Broken World 2
ML506 Ministerial Ethics 2
ML507 Gospel Responses to Contemporary Challenges 2
ML508 Preaching Gospel-Centered Messages 2
MF531 Ministry Leadership Formation Lab I 1
MF532 Ministry Leadership Formation Lab II 1
MF533-34 Ministry Leadership Formation Lab III - IV (P/F graded, lab fee; as needed) 0
Open Electives: 8 credits