Union Theological Seminary Academics


Graduation Requirements for the Master of Divinity (M.Div.)

The courses of study for the Master of Divinity (M.Div.) are organized into four academic fields and a general area used to identify courses that are not specific to one field:

  • Biblical Field: Old Testament and New Testament
  • Historical Field: Church History and courses in the history of Christian thought; Christian Institutions
  • Theological Field: Philosophy of Religion; Systematic Theology; Christian Ethics; Ecumenical Studies
  • Practical Theology Field: Preaching, Arts, and Worship; Psychiatry and Religion; Religion and Education; Church and Society; Integrative and Field Based Education

The Master of Divinity degree requires a minimum of 78 points which include specific courses required in the curricular fields, a field based education requirement, electives, and a senior thesis. The requirements are to be met under the terms stated below. The electives and the senior thesis are selected around a declared "Program Focus" that is planned with the faculty advisor, which allows the student to concentrate studies on a professional track or specialized interest. Examples of program foci might be parish or pastoral ministry, theology and the arts, a particular academic discipline, liberation theologies, or psychiatry and religion. Students are, of course, permitted and even encouraged in the course of their studies to exceed the minimum requirements of the degree.

The normal full-time study load, apart from courses taken in the January Intersession or the summer, is an average of 13 points per semester. Without permission from the academic dean, no one is permitted to take more than 15 points in any one semester or more than 30 points in an academic year, exclusive of the January Intersession or summer. The student’s registration must be approved every semester by a faculty advisor.

First Year

Juniors are expected to complete the Biblical Field’s foundational courses in the first year of the program. Juniors should also begin taking required courses in the Historical, Theological, and Practical Theology fields, along with the "City" courses. Also recommended is the study of Biblical Hebrew or Biblical Greek early in the student’s seminary career.

Second Year

Middlers continue taking the core of required courses, along with elective courses. The biblical exegesis course and the introductory preaching and worship course are taught in tandem and must be completed by the end of the middler year. Unless an internship is planned, the field education requirement is also met in the second year. Students should declare their Program Focus by the end of the middler year.

Third Year

Seniors, usually having met most of the distribution requirements, will choose courses to complete their degree program as well as making selections in accordance with their declared Program Focus. In the second semester of the senior year, M.Div. candidates will enroll for the thesis or senior project (see below) or six additional points of coursework. In addition to approval from the faculty advisor, every senior must have his or her program of study verified by the Registrar to ensure that the student is on course to meet all degree requirements.

Required Courses for the M.Div.


Biblical Courses

9 points
OT 101, NT 101 and BX 201

Historical Courses

6 points
CH 107, CH 108, and CH 109

Theological Courses

6 points
ST 103 or ST 104, and another course in the Theological field 

Practical Theology Courses

6 points
CW 101 and another course in the Practical Theology field

Integrative and Field Based Education 

6 points
FE 103 and FE 104

Interreligious Engagement 

3 points
Any 3-point World Religions course
Any 3-Point Interreligious Engagement Course

City Courses

6 points
CT 101 and CT 102

Thesis/Senior Project

6 points
or an additional 6 points in electives


30 points

Readiness for further study in a field is achieved by satisfying the field’s minimum requirement for the degree as described below. The completion of foundational work will equip the student for closer and more specialized study of other subjects in the curriculum. Substitutions for the courses listed above require approval from the dean of academic administration and must be filed with the registrar.

Biblical Courses

Old Testament 101, New Testament 101, and biblical exegesis BX 201 (taught in tandem with CW 101) are required. Additionally, those students without a good knowledge of the Bible are required to take one-point elective "Bible Content" courses, one each in Old and New Testament. However, students may opt out of these one-point courses by passing the Bible Content exams, given prior to registration in the Fall.

The introductory sequence must be met by the end of the candidate’s first year, and BX 201 (with CW 101) is completed in the second year. All students, no matter what form of ministry is contemplated, are urged to elect study of at least one of the biblical languages. Advanced students may explore opportunities for study in other ancient languages relevant to biblical study.

Historical Courses

Church History 107, 108, and 109 are taken to meet the field’s six-point requirement for the M.Div.

Theological Courses

Six points are required, with at least three points earned in either Systematic Theology 103 or 104. Students whose college work in philosophy is not strong are advised to select Philosophy of Religion 103, when offered; this course can be counted toward meeting the field requirement for the M.Div.

Practical Theology Courses

Six points must be earned in two courses: CW 101, taught in tandem with the BX 201 and taken in the student’s second year, and one additional three point course from the field’s curriculum, exclusive of Integrative and Field Based Education.

Integrative and Field Based Education

Every candidate for the M.Div. degree must complete a three-point course in Interreligious Engagement, chosen from courses listed with the prefix IE. Some of these courses may also be found elsewhere in the catalog under a different course number. (For example, IE 499 may also be offered as CH 499 in the Historical Field or ST 499 in the Theological Field of the curriculum.) Such cross-listed courses may be used to fulfill either the Interreligious Engagement requirement or the field requirement, but not both.

Interreligious Engagement

Every candidate for the M.Div. degree must complete a three-point course in Interreligious Engagement, chosen from courses listed with the prefix IE. Some of these courses may also be found elsewhere in the catalog under a different course number. (For example, IE 499 may also be offered as CH 499 in the Historical Field or ST 499 in the Theological Field of the curriculum.) Such cross-listed courses may be used to fulfill either the Interreligious Engagement requirement or the field requirement, but not both.

"City" Courses

As part of Union Seminary's effort to place the M.Div. curriculum firmly in the urban and pluralistic context of New York City, each M.Div. student will be required to take six points of course work in "City" courses: CT 101 - Christianities in the City, which will explore the historical, theological and cultural contexts of selected Christian communities, and study both continuities and changes as churches have adapted to life of this world city; and CT 102 - Religions in the City, which will explore interfaith communities within New York City. The "Cities" requirement should be completed by the end of the middler year.

A Thesis or Senior Project or Additional Elective Courses

In the senior year, the candidate will elect one of the following options: (a) six points for a thesis or a senior project, or (b) six additional points from elective courses. The student will declare the option chosen for fulfilling this final six-point requirement during the first semester of the senior year. Obviously, the means for completing this final requirement—thesis, senior project, or courses—is best considered in advance of registration, perhaps most usefully in the latter part of the student’s middler year.

If the thesis option is chosen, the thesis subject must be reported to the Registrar by November 1 in the senior year. The student obtains the approval of two faculty members: one who agrees to serve as thesis advisor/first reader and a second reader. (The first reader is not necessarily the same professor who serves as the student’s program advisor, but must be a member of the faculty.) The thesis will be due on April 10. The thesis or senior project is normally completed in the second semester. However, a senior may elect to complete the thesis or senior project in the fall semester and should consult the registrar for appropriate due dates.

If the option of a senior project is chosen, the subject and a brief description of the scope of the project must be reported to the Registrar by November 1, after it has been approved by the members of the faculty who have agreed to supervise the project. (This faculty approval corresponds to the role of "first" and "second" reader in the case of a thesis.) A senior project may invoke a range of possibilities, different from the research essay indicated by the thesis option. (Some examples are art exhibit, performance, play-writing, musical composition.) The idea for, and the shape of, a student’s senior project must, of course, be accepted by the faculty member who agrees to primarily direct the student’s work. The requirements of the project, and of the faculty member’s expectations of the project, will be established for the individual student’s case at that time and will always include a written element of approximately 12-20 pages. Like the thesis, a senior project must be completed by April 10th. At that time it will be evaluated by the primary faculty supervisor and the second professor who has agreed to serve on the project.

If the option to complete elective courses is chosen, six points of full regular credit (i.e. not R credit) must be earned by the student in classroom courses of the Seminary (i.e., CPE or a Field Education Internship will not satisfy this requirement).

Electives and Program Focus

Thirty points earned in elective courses will count toward the 78 points required. These courses should not normally be taken in a given field until after progress has been made in meeting that field’s core requirements. Choosing a focus of study allows the student to concentrate in a standard area of the curriculum (e.g., New Testament or Christian Ethics) or in a special area that has been approved by the faculty as a concentration, such as Theology and the Arts or Pastoral Ministry and Theology. At least 15 of the 30 elective points are to be related to the Program Focus.

The particulars of a specialization are outlined in "Program Templates" which are developed by the faculty to guide students and advisors in organizing such programs of study. Download program focus requirements here.

Seniors may take two elective courses for R (reading) credit. Courses taken to meet field requirements may not be taken for R credit. The two R-credit courses usually total four to six points. Instructors shall state the conditions on which R credit will be granted, but in almost every case R credit requires regular attendance and completion of the course reading assignments, but something less than the full written work load required for regular credit in a course. R credit should therefore be taken when the student is doing the most concentrated work on the senior thesis, usually in the second semester.

Academic Advisement and Vocational Development

The purpose of academic advisement, which is a partnership between professor and student, is to help the student plan academic work by coordinating individual goals with the Seminary’s resources. The graduate professional degree of Master of Divinity entails both academic training and vocational development. These related concerns are addressed together to match the resources of the curriculum to the experience, needs, and aims of the student, with the intention of helping the student make the best of his or her years in seminary. The Academic Office is responsible for administering academic advisement. The following description of academic advisement and vocational development illustrates the different issues faced by students in each of the three years of the Master of Divinity program.

A student entering the M.Div. program will be assigned a member of the faculty to serve as advisor. During Orientation, entering students meet with faculty advisors to exchange information about education for ministry and educational resources to meet student goals, especially curricular offerings. Plans are also made for a program of study, including a schedule of future meetings with the professor. Students and advisors may elect to meet individually or in small groups during the year, but in either case, special attention to the shape and direction of each student’s education is essential to assure well-balanced academic advisement and vocational development. During the junior year, thought should be given to the possibility of varied work that may be arranged for the middler year to clarify vocational identity and fulfill the field based education requirement.

Middlers continue to meet regularly with their advisors. Of particular importance in consultations between advisor and student during this year is the assurance that progress is being made toward meeting the field requirements for graduation. The advisor also assists the student in selecting a "program focus" which allows the student to concentrate studies on a professional track or specialized interest. Discussion of the various program foci options will encourage students to think in a focused way about their future vocational and career goals.

When entering the senior year, candidates are expected to have completed nearly all required courses and to have devoted some thought to selecting between the options for a thesis project or additional elective courses as permitted in this program. In keeping with the connection of academic training and vocational development, the thesis project or the extra courses chosen will undergird the student’s particular interests. Conferences with the advisor for registration should confirm the student’s plan for completing the remaining degree requirements. 

Time Limitations

The candidate for the M.Div. must complete all academic and tuition requirements and present a thesis not later than five years after admission, except by permission of the academic dean.


Download Degree Planner for Master of Divinity Degree


©Union Theological Seminary in the City of New York

3041 Broadway at 121st Street, New York, NY 10027 | Tel: (212) 662-7100