Category: Future Students

Top 10 Questions to Ask Before Enrolling in Seminary

If you are considering seminary, chances are you have a lot of questions. Our student success advisors love to answer prospective students’ questions! Here are the top 10 questions we are asked and the best answers we can give.

#1 Does it matter if a seminary is accredited?

Prospective students should always ask if the school they are considering is accredited. If it is accredited, the student can be sure that an outside agency–an unbiased source–has examined the operations of the school to make sure that it is serving its students well and providing the best education possible.

Central is proudly accredited by the Higher Learning Commission and the Association of Theological Schools.  Of the importance of accreditation, the Higher Learning Commission states, “Accreditation provides current and potential students assurance that they are receiving a quality education which will be recognized as such by potential employers or licensing boards as well as by other colleges or universities in case of student transfers or pursuit of a higher degree.”

If a seminary is not accredited, that does not mean that it isn’t a good school.  But with unaccredited seminaries, you do need to pay closer attention to how the school operates, its quality standards, and its financial sustainability.


#2 Can I afford seminary?

Every seminary has different costs and offers different types of financial assistance. Prospective students should not always assume that the “sticker price” for tuition published on the website is what they will pay. Most often, they will pay less. Prospective students also need to consider whether they are planning to pay as they go so that they can graduate without any debt.

Central works very hard to make seminary affordable for everyone by keeping tuition low, offering scholarships, and providing payment plans. This combination allows most of our students to graduate without any new debt! But finances are personal, and there is a lot to consider.


#3 How do I choose the best program for me?

It depends on your goals. If you know you’re headed to full-time professional ministry, the Master of Divinity is often the right track. If you’re looking to explore a particular topic that interests you about biblical studies, theology, or spirituality, then the Master of Arts (Theological Studies) may be a good place to start. Our admissions advisors are here to help you ask some good questions and reflect on both your needs and your strengths. They can point you to the program at Central that best matches your goals.


#4 I don’t know what exactly I want to do after seminary. Is that ok?

Vocational opportunities in ministry and ministry-related fields are always changing. Some students come to seminary with a clear vision of what they want to do:  serve as pastor a small rural church, serve as a chaplain in an urban hospital, or become a licensed counselor. But many students come to seminary without knowing what they want to do vocationally. Some come to seminary because they have sensed a call to ministry and are open to where that calling may lead. They recognize that during their education journey they may likely refine that sense of call and develop a clearer sense of where they can use their gifts and strengths most effectively. We have resources at Central to help you as you explore, try different experiences, and ask yourself the right questions about your future vocation.


#5 Will I find a job after I graduate from seminary?

As with any educational program, the prospective student should understand how earning a degree or certificate will impact their ability to get a new job or be promoted in their current context.

While Central can’t promise specific jobs or guarantee future employment, we can assure you that jobs in many ministry-related fields are plentiful. We encourage prospective students to search for openings in their desired fields even before they start their program. We also encourage students to think about flexibility. Sometimes when starting a new career, graduates find that they work part-time in ministry and part-time or full-time in a non-ministry context until a full-time position can be found.


#6 What does “online education” mean?

When a school says its programs are offered “online,” that can mean a lot of different things. It’s important that prospective students ask how the institution defines” online.” The answers can determine the experience you will have and whether that institution’s delivery of education fits your learning needs and your lifestyle.

Here are a few types of online education prevalent today at seminaries around the country.

  • On-Demand. These types of programs allow students access to a bank of pre-recorded content, and usually the courses are self-directed. Some consider this the least personal type of learning. You likely will not have any interaction with other students or with your professors. NOTE: Central does not offer on-demand courses.
  • Asynchronous. This is currently one of the most popular types of online learning available at seminaries. Asynchronous courses allow the instructor to post pre-recorded content, and students may access the content any time. Students interact with their classmates and professors generally through message boards. NOTE: Central rarely offers an asynchronous course.
  • Live Online/Synchronous. This type of educational experience feels most similar to learning in a traditional in-person classroom. Classes meet at a certain day and time, and everyone logs into a system such as Zoom. All classmates and the professor are live. Teaching and discussion happen live. This learning option offers students the greatest opportunity to interact with their professor and other students, to ask questions and get feedback, to form relationships, and to expand their professional network. The real-time discussions also allow for additional explanation and context. NOTE: Most classes at Central are offered in this format!
  • Live Online/Synchronous combined with In-Person Intensives. This option combines the live online set-up with an occasional in-person opportunity to learn in the same space and fellowship during breaks. NOTE: Central does offer courses in this format for some doctoral-level courses and some courses in the counseling program.

Each student needs to determine which online learning opportunity best suits their life and their educational style.

All our online theological programs are carefully curated and leverage the latest innovations to bring the same high-quality educational experience to students at every level in any location.


#7 Do I have to believe everything my seminary professor believes to be successful in their class?

Absolutely not, at least not at Central! The truth is that there are some seminaries where the faculty teaches a particular set of beliefs, and the students are expected to learn those beliefs and take them on as their own.

At Central, this is not the case.  The faculty of Central Seminary has vastly different and personal sets of beliefs, just like the students. There is not a specific theology or creed that faculty members are asked to affirm before being hired.  Students will find that their professors at Central are supportive of a wide variety of beliefs as the seminary welcomes people from all different denominational traditions and faith experiences.  While some of our students are Baptist, others self-identify as African Methodist Episcopal, Disciples of Christ, Episcopal, Methodist, Non-Denominational, Presbyterian, Pentecostal, Lutheran, Catholic, and United Church of Christ. Still others of our students are not affiliated with a particular tradition. All these students find a home theologically at Central Seminary.


#8 My pastor did not attend seminary, so is it necessary for me? 

While some denominations and traditions require seminary training for pastors and ministers, not all do.  Some churches believe that all are called by God to serve and minister. Other churches identify members who have gifts for ministry and nurture and mentor those members as they move into a leadership t role. Most of these individuals do their ministry to the best of their abilities and offer significant leadership to their churches.

But the vast majority of denominations do require a seminary education for ministers and pastors, and those seeking to serve in chaplaincy are required to complete a seminary degree. . Central encourages students to research their traditions, consider their possible vocations, and decide if theological education ry is right for them. Even if your tradition does not require a seminary education, you may decide it is important to you. .

We believe that a seminary education is similar to the foundation upon which a house sits, and the ministry is the house. The more properly constructed and formed the foundation is the sturdier the house will be. Seminary provides foundation for ministry and better prepares and equips ministers to serve well and to thrive vocationally.

At Central, students grow in knowledge and skills, but they also form community with other students and with the seminary’s faculty and staff. Learning in community enriches the experience, creates a new professional network, and establishes lifelong friends.


#9 I didn’t grow up in a church. Is it ok for me to attend seminary?

Absolutely! Not everyone is part of a church community as a child or even as an adult. Today, people find their way to faith from a variety of paths. Central Seminary is welcoming and affirming of people from all paths.


#10 Does the seminary welcome and affirm everyone, including women and those who identify as LGBTQAI+?

This is an important question and one that can be deeply personal for many. We hope that every prospective student seeks a seminary that is welcoming and affirming of everyone. There is a long history of women, LGBTQIA+, and other marginalized groups either being excluded from or not fully affirmed in seminaries, ministries, and churches.

Central is unwavering in our support and encouragement of women as leaders and ministers in the church and in ministry. We are proud that Central has helped propel generations of women into ministry as pastors, ministers, teachers, faculty members, denominational leaders, and even as seminary presidents.

We are proud to say that Central is affirming and welcoming of ALL people, including students, staff, and faculty who identify as LGBTQIA+. It is not unusual for people to openly identify this way in our classes, and you should not be surprised that Central faculty members are supportive and affirming.

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