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The Graduate Studies Diploma Program


Program Objectives & Requirements

Western Seminary offers the flexible, one-year Graduate Studies Diploma (GSD) program for individuals with varying objectives for theological education.

The program may be appropriate for:

  • Ministry directors and staff in a local church;
  • Mission personnel in professional and non-professional roles who seek formal biblical, theological and missiological training;
  • Christian school educators who need to further their education in biblical and theological studies;
  • Laypersons and marketplace leaders who desire to deepen their preparation for effective lay ministry;
  • Individuals who need a “trial year” in seminary to better define their vocational aspirations;
  • Spouses of Western students who wish to participate in some aspect of their spouse’s education.

Since these credits could also subsequently be applied to M.A. or M.Div. degree programs (depending upon the specific curricular requirements for each), the GSD is also suitable for those who wish to enroll in seminary without making the commitment required for a degree program. GSD students are able to select the discipline in which they will take most (or all) of this coursework. The diploma program, by itself, is typically not adequate preparation for vocational ministry. While it is not intended to provide a full level of training and education for pastoral, church-planting, and teaching ministries, it does provide a foundation of biblical education and ministry skills helpful for bi-vocational ministries and those serving in a support capacity. The program is designed to fulfill minimum educational requirements of certain parachurch and mission organizations. The diploma program may be used as the equivalent of the first year of either the M.Div. or M.A. programs.

Admission Requirements

Students entering the diploma program are expected to present a baccalaureate degree and give evidence of Christian faith, character, promise, and maturity. The same admission standards, materials, and procedures as for the M.Div. program are required. Applicants who seek admission, but do not meet admission requirements, may seek special consideration from the Admissions Committee.

Transfer Credit and Residence Requirements

Upon approval by the Registrar, transfer of up to 15 credit hours toward the Graduate Studies Diploma program is allowed from graduate institutions accredited by the Association of Theological Schools. Students must have earned a grade of B or better for a course to be considered for transfer and coursework must have completed no more than five years prior to matriculation to Western Seminary.

Alternatively, students may receive advanced standing of up to 7 credit hours of the Graduate Studies Diploma requirements 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). Transferability of credits earned at Western and transferred to another institution is at the discretion of the receiving institution. Consult the Registrar’s Office for information on eligibility of transfer credit and advanced standing.

Of the 30 credit hours required for the Graduate Studies Diploma program, a minimum of 15 credit hours must be completed through coursework at any of the Western Seminary campus locations, including the Online Campus. 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 program requirements must be earned within ten years of the awarding of the diploma.

Diploma Requirements

To earn a diploma, a student must complete 30 semester hours of study with a 2.5 cumulative grade point average. Many courses are offered by an intensive (on campus) schedule, or through a variety of distance learning formats. The intensive module permits study through convenient scheduling options throughout the year. The distance learning format provides opportunity to individuals outside Portland, San Jose, or Sacramento to study and learn while remaining in their home area and ministries. All credits applied toward the degree requirements must be earned within ten years of the awarding of the degree.

Graduate Studies Diploma Curriculum Plan

Biblical and Theological Studies: 8 credits
Any course with a BL, BT, CH, NT, OT, TH prefix.
Concentration Studies: 8 credits
Courses in one area with advisor consent.
Open Electives: 14 credits