dcsimg

How to Become A Priest

Some Christian religions and many non-Christian religions such as Hinduism, Shinto and Judaism have priests. This article provides information about how to become a priest in a Christian religion and focuses on information from three specific faiths - the Catholic Church, the Episcopal Church and the Orthodox Church of America. Most Christian religions in the U.S. have ministers rather than priests, but the process to become one is similar.

Religious Studies

What does it take to become a priest?

In almost all major U.S. religions, a student has to obtain, attend, and participate in the following to become a priest:

  1. A bachelor's degree. Disciplines for this 4-year degree can include history, philosophy, communications, English, general studies and, of course, religious studies, but degrees in other disciplines may also be acceptable.
  2. A professional degree. Depending on the denomination, this 3-5 year graduate degree usually culminates in a degree such as Master of Divinity, Master of Theology, Master of Theological Studies, Master of Arts in Religion or Master of Sacred Theology.
  3. Seminary. Most students attend a seminary for graduate-level programs. The Orthodox Church of America also allows high school students to attend seminary concurrent with earning their bachelor's and master's degrees.
  4. Supervised ministry. Most graduate programs either include a supervised ministry component or else students are required to complete supervised ministry following graduation.
  5. Ordination. Through this process, the priest's church "invests the individual with pastoral authority" to perform ceremonies such as baptisms, marriages and to hear confessions, if appropriate.

 What kind of course work does a student who wants to become a priest take?

Course work can vary by program and school or seminary, but common themes run throughout most programs and generally include the following:

  • New and Old Testament
  • History of Christianity
  • American Christianity
  • Prophetic literature
  • God and creation
  • Singing the faith
  • Religion and politics
  • Religion and human sexuality
  • Jewish scripture
  • Introduction to Islam
  • Ethics and fundamental moral theology
  • Spirituality
  • Evangelism
  • Canon law
  • Pastoral ministry
  • Parish administration

Some Master of Divinity programs also have concentrations such as Biblical Interpretations, Youth and Student Ministries, Pastoral Studies, Biblical Counseling, and Worldview and Apologetics.

Are classes "one faith fits all"?

Differences in programs to become a priest depend on the Christian denomination and the requirements for its priests as well as the specific school or seminary. Seminaries are usually either nondenominational or aligned with a specific Christian denomination. Seminaries and schools that are supported by a specific faith offer course work that is in line with their beliefs, which may differ somewhat from others. Some schools require attendance at religious services as part of their curriculum, which could create problems for a student if he or she practices a different religion. A list of theological seminaries and their faith affiliations is available online.

There may be slight variations in the length of the professional degree programs and what course work is taught, but the important components that are uniformly stressed across all faiths are a willingness to offer your life in service to God, an understanding of your faith, and a desire to share it with others.

Sources:

Course Listings for MDiv, Episcopal Divinity School http://www.eds.edu/course-listings
Frequently Asked Questions About Hinduism, Sri Siva Vishnu Temple http://www.ssvt.org/Education/Hinduism%20FAQ.asp# 
How to Become a Shinto Priest April 13, 2006 Encyclopedia of Shinto http://eos.kokugakuin.ac.jp/modules/xwords/entry.php?entryID=515
Joseph Kitagawa Excerpt: Priesthood in the History of Religions 2007 Catherine of Siena Virtual College http://www.catherinecollegelibrary.net/classic/kitagawa.asp
Master of Divinity 2013 Yale University Divinity School http://divinity.yale.edu/admissions/master-divinity
MDiv Degree Program Saint Tikhon's Orthodox Theological Seminary http://www.stots.edu/master_of_divinity.html
Procedure to Become a Priest 2013 Orthodox Church in America http://oca.org/questions/priesthoodmonasticism/procedure-to-become-a-priest
Program of Priestly Formation Seton Hall University http://www.shu.edu/academics/theology/priestly-formation/curriculum.cfm
National Religious Vocation Conference Sixteen Questions About Church Vocations 2013 Catholic Religious Vocation Network http://www.vocationnetwork.org/articles/show/131?m=6&sm=4
The Big List of Theological Seminaries 2013 http://churchrelevance.com/resources/theological-seminaries-list/  


Priest Training

Refine School Matches
Hide filters
  • SUBJECT Clear All

    See More

  • DEGREE

    See More

  • PROGRAM TYPE

  • START TIME

    LOCATION
    Please enter valid US or Canada Zip.
            Results open in new window

            Searching Searching ...

            Matching School Ads
            General Studies - Bachelor
            • Average class size is 25, allowing for more one-on-one time with instructors.
            • Has a 97% employment rate among available graduates.
            • All  graduates receive Lifetime Employment  Assistance—free and forever.
            • Michigan's largest independent college.
            • Most instructors are working professionals in the fields they teach.
            • Programs are continuously updated to ensure classes are career-relevant and in sync with what's needed in the industry
            Show more [+]
            • Accredited
            • Online Courses
            • Flexible Scheduling
            • Accelerated Programs
            • Financial Aid
            • Transferable Credits
            Doctor of Ministry: Evangelism & Church Planting
            • Ranked among top Regional Universities in the South by U.S. News and World Report in 2015.
            • Ranked 37th among the Best Colleges for Veterans by U.S. News and World Report in 2015.
            • Stands as the largest private, nonprofit university in the nation with 100,000+ students.
            • Offers over 230 programs online, from the certificate to the doctoral level.
            • Has a student-faculty ratio of 25:1, and 42.3% of its classes have fewer than 20 students.
            Show more [+]
            • Accredited
            • Online Courses
            • Financial Aid
            • Transferable Credits
            Master of Arts in Ministry - Practical Theology
            • Ranked among the 2015 Best National Universities by U.S. News & World Report.
            • Designated as a Military Friendly School every year since 2012 by Victory Media.
            • Offers credit for prior learning and experience through assessment tests.
            • Provides a short term Leadership Certification program in partnership with EQUIP®.
            • Accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) of the North Central Association (NCA).
            Show more [+]
            • Accredited
            • Online Courses
            • Flexible Scheduling
            • Financial Aid
            • Transferable Credits
            MA in Human Services, Mental Health Administration Specialization
            • Designated a 2015 Military Friendly School by Victory Media.
            • Received the 2013 Making a Difference for Students Award from Quality Matters.
            • Offers a free student app for smartphones and tablets, helping students keep up to date.
            • Has a Golden Key International Honour Society and SALUTE Veterans Honor Society.
            • Accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools (NCA).
            Show more [+]
            • Online Courses
            • Flexible Scheduling
            • Financial Aid
            B.A. Human Development
            • Founded over 60 years ago on the principles of inclusion and social justice.
            • Offers credit for previous life and work experience.
            • Equipped with over 17,000 titles in their library.
            • Has 3 semesters and 6 start dates a year.
            • Located in Pasadena, CA, with instructional sites in Sacramento, Salinas, Santa Cruz, and Visalia as well as online options.
            • Accredited by the Accrediting Commission for Senior Colleges and Universities of the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC).
            Show more [+]
            • Online Courses
            • Flexible Scheduling
            • Accelerated Programs
            • Financial Aid
            • Transferable Credits
            Online Master of Management in Library and Information Science - Urban Public Librarianship
            • Ranked 25th among the Best National Universities in 2015 by U.S. News & World Report.
            • One of the world’s leading private research universities.
            • Its student-faculty ratio is 9:1, and 56.8% of its classes have fewer than 20 students.
            • Has an average freshman retention rate, an indicator of student satisfaction, of 96.8 percent.
            • Dedicated to a strong tradition of integrating liberal and professional education since 1880.
            • Its faculty includes National Academy members, Nobel Laureates, MacArthur Fellows, and more.
            Show more [+]
            • Online Courses
            Online Master of Information
            • Ranked one of the Top Public Schools in 2015 by U.S. News and World Report.
            • Founded in 1766 as a public institution; it has a main campus in New Brunswick, New Jersey and offers many programs online.
            • Has an average freshman retention rate of 91.8%.
            • Its student-faculty ratio is 14:1, and 38% of its classes have fewer than 20 students.
            • Has famous alumni including chef and restauranteur Mario Batali, author Junot Diaz, actor James Gandolfini, and former U.S. Poet Laureate Robert Pinsky.
            Show more [+]
            • Online Courses
            • Flexible Scheduling
            • Accelerated Programs
            • Financial Aid
            • Transferable Credits
            Master of Arts in International Relations Online
            • Study at a university accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges, Inc.
            • Immediately apply what you’re learning to current workplace challenges
            • Experience the convenience and flexibility of online learning—access coursework 24/7
            • Take advantage of four start dates per year
            • Benefit from no required GRE/GMAT 
            • Enjoy small class sizes and students from diverse backgrounds
            • Earn your degree from a respected institution in as few as 18 months
            Show more [+]
            • Accredited
            • Online Courses
            • Financial Aid
            • Transferable Credits
            M.Ed. in Curriculum & Instruction: eLearning/Technology Education
            • A private, Christian, liberal arts university founded in 1905 and open to students of any faith.
            • Has an average class size of 20 students.
            • 97% of students receive financial aid, with the average freshman receiving $10,000.
            • Offers over 25 undergraduate degree programs.
            • Has approximately 5,000 students; 60% female and 40% male.
            • Accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities.
            Show more [+]
            • Online Courses
            • Flexible Scheduling
            • Accelerated Programs
            • Financial Aid
            • Transferable Credits
            Masters of Social Work

            Why Choose Widener University?

            At Widener University, we proudly cultivate challenging and culturally diverse learning environments where academics, leadership, and service come first. Our curricula are connected to societal issues and challenge students to take social responsibility for their role in today's global society.

            Founded in 1821 in Chester, Pennsylvania, Widener is nationally recognized for our commitment to civic engagement, service, and social responsibility. The university has been included on the U.S. President's Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll with distinction every year since its inception in 2006.

            • Online Courses