Choosing a seminary is much different from choosing a college. When you go to undergraduate school, the reputation of the school, location of the school, or cost of the school may make most of the choice for you. Every school is in some fundamental way basically alike. It ends up as a set of letters on the bottom of a resume.
Choosing a seminary is not like this. The theology of the seminary has a major impact on what you will learn in seminary and the perspective you will learn it from. This is why attending Reformed Theological Seminary would be very different from Assembly of God Theological Seminary. One will focus on a Reformed worldview while the other will focus on Pentecostal theology. Therefore, your theological convictions make a big difference in your choice. That is why we have added a “Theology” category — to help you find seminaries that align best with your theological convictions.
Many people go to seminary simply for further education. For those who are going to be a pastor, however, choosing a seminary has another dimension that you need to consider. Becoming a pastor is not like getting other kinds of jobs. You don’t just pass your resume to some “top companies” and expect someone to hire you. Furthermore, very few people go directly from seminary into a senior pastor role, which is the job most are seeking. Your pastoral career path will develop along with your ministry connections. Being connected to a church and a denomination are the most important part of your hiring process. In fact, we do not recommend that you start seminary at all if you have not developed these kinds of connections. Otherwise, you may find yourself at the other end of a long and difficult degree with no obvious employment options.
BECOMING A PASTOR
Many young people who come into the Kingdom of God and want to go to seminary do so through movements which themselves are young. They are based on church planting and evangelism. What this means is that there is really no one to “hire” you to be their pastor. You have to start your own, or join someone who is starting one. In movements like this, education is not really the gateway to employment. Your ability to lead or contribute to a successful team is the key.
By contrast, older established denominations do hire their pastors. You can think of the denomination kind of like a company. As long as you are credentialed within the denomination you are likely to find some kind of employment with that denomination. Even so, the path to becoming a pastor is not usually direct. Think about it. A pastor is someone that the mature adults of that community trust to give them guidance on their life issues. Therefore, one of the main qualifications to be a senior pastor in most people’s eyes is to be middle-aged and have had a lot of ministry experiences. This means that when you are younger you will need to be open to doing a lot of other ministry kinds of jobs. Youth pastor is the most common “entry-level position” for future pastors. Worship pastor. Church camp director. Parachurch ministry leader. These kinds of positions qualify you to be a pastor. Becoming a pastor can be an excellent transitional career for this reason — you are already mature and have life experience that people can relate to. You can skip some of the steps that younger future pastors go through.
Another group of people who attend seminary plan to go on to become professors. In this case, choosing a seminary is more like choosing a college. Choosing one with a reputation of academic excellence can help you take the next step. Evangelical seminaries usually hire people who are conservative but who have taken their Ph.D at big name non-evangelical schools. Harvard, Cambridge and Aberdeen are particularly popular — places that have a reputation outside of the evangelical world. Having done good work at a top seminary like Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, Fuller Theological Seminary, or Regent College will give you an advantage in the process.