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Pastor Courses and Classes Overview

Find out about degree programs that offer pastoral courses. See some of the program requirements so you can be more informed when choosing a program to prepare for a career as a pastor.

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Essential Information

August 2014 job postings revealed that employers seek pastors with a master's degree from a seminary or divinity school, along with work experience in ministry. In addition to traditional on-campus instruction, pastoral training might be available through evening and online coursework.

Master's degree programs typically last from 2-4 years and require a bachelor's degree, though not all programs insist that the undergraduate degree be in a theology field. As part of the curriculum, graduate students can choose electives and complete practical work. Graduate majors for aspiring pastors include divinity, pastoral studies and theology.

List of Courses

Below, you'll find descriptions of courses typically included in a pastoral program at the master's level.

Language Course

Many students studying to become pastors take language courses, typically Latin, Greek and Hebrew. This enables a ministry student to read early translations of the Bible and other religious texts without relying on translations and interpretations. Language courses cover topics like alphabets, syntax, grammar and vocabulary. Advanced language classes in a program for pastors might involve readings of original Biblical texts.

Old Testament Course

Courses covering the Old Testament discuss the first five books of the Bible. Students learn about the theoretical principles used in the analysis of these writings, and some courses discuss the inspiration for the Old Testament. An introduction to the Old Testament course is typically offered early in a pastoral student's studies, but many programs offer advanced courses in the Old Testament that look at various issues and theories surrounding the text.

New Testament Course

Depending on the program, students studying to become pastors might take two courses on the New Testament. The four gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John might be discussed as a narrative, and the rest of the New Testament may be discussed in terms of the epistles and the Book of Revelation. Students might read Greek and Roman supplemental texts and discuss Biblical law and theory. Later in their studies, students might take courses that examine the New Testament in a more focused way.

Christian History Course

A broad introduction to Christian history course is often required of students early in their divinity studies. Students can expect this course to cover issues and events in Christianity from its beginnings through modern times. Courses looking at specific issues in the Christian timeline might be taken midway through a pastor student's studies.

Ministry Experience Course

Many programs for students wishing to become pastors require students to spend time working in the field throughout their education. This ministry experience course might involve spending time in a church or parish working with a worship community. Other programs require students to go on missions and minister to people outside the church. Some programs reserve these hands-on experiences for students in their later studies.

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Schools for Aspiring Pastors: How to Choose

Popular Schools

  • Minimum eligibility requirements:
    • Must be a high school graduate or have completed GED
    • Eligibility and relevancy of sample programs below will vary by article and program
    School locations:
    • Online Learning
    • Arizona (3 campuses)
    • California (16)
    • Colorado (3)
    • Florida (6)
    • Georgia (5)
    • Illinois (7)
    • Indiana (2)
    • Maryland (1)
    • Michigan (1)
    • Minnesota (1)
    • Missouri (2)
    • North Carolina (2)
    • New Jersey (3)
    • Nevada (1)
    • New York (2)
    • Ohio (4)
    • Oklahoma (1)
    • Oregon (1)
    • Pennsylvania (4)
    • Tennessee (2)
    • Texas (7)
    • Utah (1)
    • Virginia (3)
    • Washington (3)
    • Wisconsin (1)

    Online and Classroom-Based Programs

    What is your classroom preference?

  • Minimum eligibility requirements:
    • Must be a high school graduate or have completed GED
    School locations:
    • Online Learning

    What is your highest level of education?

  • Minimum eligibility requirements:
    • Undergraduate applicants must be a high school graduate or have completed GED; Graduate program applicants must have a master's degree or higher
    School locations:
    • Online Learning

    Online Programs

    • Bachelor
        • BS in General Studies
    • Associate
        • AS in General Studies

    What is your highest level of education completed?

  • Minimum eligibility requirements:
    • Must be a high school graduate or have completed GED
    School locations:
    • Online Learning

    Online Programs

    Which degree level do you plan to pursue?

  • Minimum eligibility requirements:
    • Must hold a Bachelor's degree or higher
    School locations:
    • Online Learning

    Online Programs

    During which term would you like to start?

  • Minimum eligibility requirements:
    • Must be a high school graduate or have completed GED
    School locations:
    • Online Learning

    Online Programs

    What is your highest level of education completed?

  • Minimum eligibility requirements:
    • Must be 18 years of age or older
    School locations:
    • Online Learning

    Distance Learning Programs

    What is your highest level of education?

Other Schools:

  • School locations:
    • Ohio (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at University of Dayton include:
      • Graduate: First Professional Degree, Master
      • Undergraduate: Bachelor
    • Liberal Arts and Humanities
      • Cultural Studies
      • Liberal Arts, Humanities, and General Studies
      • Philosophy
      • Political Science
      • Public Administration
      • Religious Studies
        • Pastoral Studies
      • Social Science and Studies
      • Social Studies and History
      • Theological, Religious, and Ministerial Studies
  • School locations:
    • Arizona (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at Southwestern College include:
      • Non-Degree: Coursework
      • Undergraduate: Associate, Bachelor
    • Liberal Arts and Humanities
      • Liberal Arts, Humanities, and General Studies
      • Religious Studies
        • Biblical Studies
        • Pastoral Studies
  • School locations:
    • Massachusetts (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at Boston College include:
      • Graduate: Doctorate, First Professional Degree, Master
      • Undergraduate: Bachelor
    • Liberal Arts and Humanities
      • Cultural Studies
      • Human and Social Services
      • Philosophy
      • Political Science
      • Religious Studies
        • Pastoral Studies
      • Social Science and Studies
      • Social Studies and History
      • Theological, Religious, and Ministerial Studies

Popular Schools

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