Choosing a degree sort of happened at the same time while choosing a school. The two are closely connected. When looking at various options, I had a good idea what I wanted to do after reading all the various programs and course catalogues at several different schools. That’s actually how I chose my BA as well. After reading dozens of course catalogues trying to find a good school, I had a clearer idea of what I wanted to study before I quite knew where I would study it.
When it comes to Seminary, there are basically three types of degrees (as my dad explained it to me). There’s the M.A., the M.Div., and the M.Th. The M.A. is what he called a “non-terminal degree” and the M.Div. is “terminal degree”. In this context, ‘terminal’ just means it’s the end of a path. Once you have an M.Div., it’s all you need to go out and do a job- like pastor a church. There’s no Thesis involved, but it may include some sort of smaller ministry research project. The assumption is that once you have a terminal degree, you stop studying and just go do the job you trained to do. Whereas the M.A. is more academic, and includes writing a thesis while the leaving the door open for further studies. Full time, the M.Div. usually takes about 3 years, whereas, the M.A. could be done in 2 years. The Master of Theology is apparently more intense and prepares you for doctoral work. So a normal progression would be to do an M.A., followed by a M.Th., followed by a Ph.D. Or so I’m told. Now-a-days, there’s plenty of doctoral programs that take folk with an M.Div. or an M.A., so this logic isn’t perfect, but I still found it helpful for knowing how to think about the options.
I had to analyze myself. There was a tension: develop what I’m already good at, or get good at something else. In my life I enjoyed teaching, leading and working in the church. There were jobs out there that I thought I’d like to do, but technically wasn’t qualified for, so would need the credentials a Masters would afford (jobs like Bible college professor or college registrar). I settled on a Master of Divinity with a leadership emphasis when I applied to Briercrest Seminary. This was to develop in my current areas of responsibilities, while giving me credentials for future opportunities.
When I first applied for college, I had enrolled in a BA in Theology. After taking various theology and Bible electives, however, I had changed my major to a BA in Biblical Studies. And everything was okay. It is okay to not know exactly what you want until you’re in the middle of it.
The same thing happened in Seminary. As I said, I enrolled in an M.Div. After a while, though, I started looking at the MABLE degree (Master of Arts in Biblical Languages and Exegesis) offered at Briercrest. It seemed so tempting, that I actually applied to have a second degree program. How could I possibly pass up the MABLE program while in Seminary? For a while, I was working on both degrees. This was too ambitious. After prayer and thought, I pulled out of the M.Div program and set my sights entirely on the MABLE degree. Now I’m doing what I love the most: Biblical languages.
What of the M.Div? I know that graduates of the school can come back and audit a course for free every year, so I figure that anything I’m “missing out on” from the M.Div, I can always come back for. I know I don’t need the credentials of an M.Div if I ever went into a pastoral role in Quebec, since I’m already well qualified for such a position, and there are cheaper ways to make up any gaps in my knowledge.
My wife and I also figured that for the same amount of time and money and effort, I could always do a Doctorate one day instead of a second Masters. Education can be an expensive hobby, so we needed to make sure it wasn’t a hobby, but we were being practical and not wasting our resources.