Is the D.Min a “fluff” degree?

Just recently I’ve been reading a new blog, The Cutting Truth. I’m not sure if it’s a current/previous student of Princeton Seminary, but the author makes some references to PTS, so there may be a connection. The author writes some really biting critiques of seminary, the church and other issues. Check it out – and read the most recent entry about the Doctor of Ministry degree.

I thought it was pretty hilarious. The D.Min tends to be the brunt of some jokes every now and then. I know that during my first year at Princeton, as some of us were beginning to feel the intensity of the academic pressure and others were fearing they’d never get into a Ph.D program – there were those of who’d smile and say, “D.Min baby – go for the D.Min.” The author of the post writes about how the D.Min helps financially-struggling seminaries pull in more cash, and how it enables pastors to finally be able to get that raise they’ve wanted, because they’re “Dr. Pastor” now. Here is a quote from the article:

“After three quick, easy, study-lite years, the pastor has attained his Doctor of Ministry degree. His doctorate degree. That degree gives the pastor a tremendous amount of respect now. He is Dr. Pastor now, a real somebody. More importantly, there is tremendous upside attached to his new title, and the ceiling on his earning potential has just been lifted. Dr. Pastor has clout now, or Dr. Rev. Pastor, if you will. Suffice it to say, he has respect, money, and position.”

I’ve often thought it would be a nice way, a quick and easy way, to get the “Dr.” prefix to my name. The Rev. Dr. Adam Walker Cleaveland. It just sounds so good. Any readers have D.Min degrees? What was your experience? Any out there planning on getting the illustrious Doctor of Ministry degree?


  1. says


    Unfortunately, I think the comments about the D.Min. are stereotypes based (as many stereotypes) in some reality. There are academic/hard D.Min. programs and there are easy/short ones… on down to probably ordering on online for $29.99. In fact, I googled for online Ph.D. degrees, and quickly found one for $500. I’m sure with some searching, one could get an even better deal.

    With all that said, it is unfair to paint with such a broad brush stroke. I am in the 6th year of working on a D.Min. in the area of theology and worship. My first four years were spent taking 8 courses (2/yr), each with 30-35 hrs. of class-time 2000+ pgs. of reading and a 30-50 pg. paper. I am now about 2/3 through a 450 pg. “project” (technically a dissertation is what you write for a Ph.D.). As with any degree, it is what you make of it. I am not doing it for a higher salary or for recognition… I’m doing it in an area in which I was already doing advanced study, and in which I am engaged in ministry.

    Ideally, the distinction between Ph.D. and D.Min. is the same as that between a medical research Ph.D. and a M.D. One is an academic degree for teaching, the other a professional degree for application in the field. The D.Min. is advanced study in the area of Christian ministry for those working in the field. I’ve been pleased and it has been the right choice for me. [And it’s been a workout to get done while being a solo pastor of a 250-member church. It is definitely not a walk in the park.] I would hope that the doctoral project will be publishable when I’m done, but if not, I definitely will use the content in the seminars and conferences I’m involved with regionally.

    In God’s grace,

    Robert Austell

    • Dan says

      A lot of it depends on the school. D.Min’s have gotten a bad reputation that they do not necessarily deserve. I am a minister who has a M.Div. from a well respected seminary. Look into the schools accreditation. If it is not accredited by ATS then its chances of being a cash cow are much greater than if they are accredited by ATS.

      Personally, I think that throughout our society there is a push for degrees, not necessarily education. This is a push that our academia pushes in order to survive. I had a professor that has written several books that said that his Ph.D. studies would be of little help in church ministry. Churches throughout my denomination put a priority on having a doctorate though. This is a pride issue. Many pastors are struggling with substantial debt that they acquired getting degrees that are not necessary.

      If you are going to get either one of these degrees and plan to work in a non-academic setting do not take out a ton of student loans that are going to haunt your family for a long time.

    • says

      I can agree with what you are saying Adam, but I would also suggest that it is dependent on the school and structure of the program. For example, in my MDiv classes we have in a given year we will read nearly 14K pages…. 1200 required for every class, every quarter. It is part of our accreditation system. In a given year we will also write over 300 pages easy worth of exegesis exegesis and other papers. I know from friends at other seminaries that they do even more than we do…..

      So, my first response to a D.Min program that sounds easier than my M.Div program is a response that categorizes the program as “fluff” as the original title of this post states.

      I am not saying your program is fluffy or inadequate, I am just saying that perspective will always lend a different view.

      I would also add that whether or not the D.Min is as academic as a Ph.D, it is still valuable as an academic course. It provides excellent professional training for ministers in the field. It was not designed as an academic Doctorate in the same way a Ph.D is designed.

      Just my thoughts….

      Blessings brother!

    • yup says

      The Dmin, Phd comparison is not the same as a MD and a PhD. The Dmin is not even a real degree. It’s a joke sorry to say. Get a ThM.

      • says

        I can assure you that my DMin was just as academically rigorous as the degree my ThD classmates are earned at BU. I earned an STM and had five years of parish experience before entering my DMin program. The professors who read my DMin thesis are at the top of their fields, and you can be certain that getting a paper past any of them is an academic achievement. No need to be snotty and arrogant about it, friend.

      • says

        “Yup”? Really? Is that like an advance degree acronym? Seriously, this academic circle jerk cracks me up! Why, with a name like Adam Walker Cleaveland, who needs a doctoral acronym behind that?! Why that would be like Samuel Taylor Coolridge wrecking his ostentatious name with a Phd. Guys, what a bunch of pompous dooofs! I have four masters, including one in ministry from Simpson U. and the MAT in theology from Fuller. I was accepted to couple of DMin. programs, Asbury and Eastern U. I applied because I had a book in mind and knew that the courses and writing project would help me. I opted out and after being accepted to various doctoral programs at Loma Linda, USC and Lesley U. I chose to do an Ed.D at La Sierra University in educational psychology. Trust me, the stats and research courses centered around quantitative research are something that no PhD in theology could hold a torch to. I am faced with a lengthy and demanding dissertation at the conclusion of my courses this spring. Well, trust me, I neither envy nor admire a PhD anymore than an Ed.D., be it in theology or Bible or pastoral studies. And I certainly do not consider the degree I’m working on more academically or professionally worthwhile than what I’ve seen of the DMin. Forgive me for being blunt, but this all just seems like a lot of mental masturbation. The ignorant, pompous, and ill-informed naysayers simply haven’t firsthand experience with all of these degrees. Like anyone else, they’re limited to their own little sphere of knowledge, regardless of whatever initials they have on their parchment map it out for them!

  2. says

    I’ve been contemplating a D.Min. degree for the past year. I well remember the D.Min. vs. Ph.D. discussions at PTS. I know some people in the the Ph.D. program there would say that a D.Min. is nothing but a glorified Th.M. Having also done a Th.M at PTS, and knowing people who are doing their D.Min. there, I would disagree with that – clearly the D.Min. is a different level of study. The Th.M. program was not as challenging as I hoped, more like an extra year of seminary of an M.Div. (but nonetheless, I’m glad that I did it).

    In regards to the article you linked, I’m sure that there are pastors who earn the D.Min just so that they can have the prestige of putting the “Dr.” in front of their name and possibly get a raise (although in Wyoming people aren’t so impressed with degrees and titles). And I’m sure there are seminaries who use the D.Min. program as a cash cow and the admission requirements are minimal – just as there are with some undergrad, master’s, and Ph.D. programs. However, every person I know who has gotten a D.Min. has done so for reasons of professional development and to be a better servant to the congregation they are serving. Entrance into to the programs to which they applied – PTS and Austin – certainly wasn’t a formality, and I know some who have gotten turned down. They have worked hard and poured themselves into the program. Plus, like Robert said above, the challenges can’t be underestimated of doing a D.Min. while being a pastor. That’s one of the main reasons that I’m hesitating applying for a D.Min. program.

  3. says


    As one with a Ph.D. — I can say that having a Dr. by one’s name doesn’t assure you of a big raise (whether that Dr. is of the Ph.D. variety or the D.Min. variety).

    I think too that like every degree program they run the gamut –from the scholarly to the not so scholarly. A D.Min is a professional degree, intended to encourage and endorse one’s continuing educatno. I know that in the early days of these degree programs there was a debate as to whether one should go right on through past the M.Div. and complete a D.Min. They were largely in residence programs that didn’t fit the life of a serving pastor. Most D.Mins today are for pastors in ministry and thus aren’t “residential.”

    My advice to anyone thinking of doing a doctorate of any kind — don’t do it for the prestige. I’ve learned over the past 9 years of pastoral ministry — after being more an academic prior to that — that my Dr. means very little in the actual work of the ministry. Hopefully what a D.Min. will foster is a life-long pursuit of learning. Whether one has a D.Min., a Ph.D. or an M.Div — indeed whether one only has a BA — it should not be said that the copyright date of the most recent book in your library is the same as your graduation date. You don’t have to read as much as I do, but you must continue reading!!!

  4. says

    Adam – long time no read.

    I think Robert’s dead on here. And the author of the Cutting Truth needs to realize, as you do, that Rev comes BEFORE Dr. – which in my opinion, means that the prestige is attached to the Rev.

    IF you’re doing a DMin for salary or the title – you’re in the WRONG line of work. And frankly, you’re probably a pretentious idiot who no one wants preaching and counseling anyway. But I have NO desire to get a Phd. But I don’t want to stop reading & studying. What’s left for a person like me, who wants to pastor and not be a professor, but keep studying and learning is the DMin. And just like any degree, it’s what you make of it. Heck, there are a ton of people who graduated with the same degree I did (and you will) – and I’ll bet most of them made more on the academic side of their’s than I did. But no one looks at that, it’s just the letters. So, an academically “light” degree may be looked down on by some, but the actual value varies – you can learn alot outside the classroom too, right?

    I happened to be thinking about getting my Dmin from a school in a warehouse, that includes soccer moms among it’s students…

  5. says

    I remember the pastor at the church I served in seminary telling me not to get a DMin but to go for a PhD. His reasoning: (1) You’re smart and you can finish a PhD
    (2) You can’t use a DMin for much other than a title in church work or a placemat

    Interestingly, he had a DMin! The reality in a world where education is more and more expected is that more people will want a doctorate. Most universities aren’t going to let you teach witha DMin (my seminiary has only one faculty member with a DMin-the rest PhDs). I think the days of a doctorate being a doctorate are behind us becasue so many people know the difference between a Phd, EdD, PsyD and DMin. A person can become a Psycholigst with a PhD or a PsyD but the perception of the PsyD being a ‘cop out’ degree because of it’s lack of a dissertation is strong.

    In the little (and I mean very little-about 8 schools) reserach I’ve done I found that it was MUCH easier to get financial aid in the form of scholarships (as opposed to loans) when working on a PhD instead of a DMin.

  6. says

    In response to Bridget’s comment… I agree, if you want to go teach in a college or graduate school setting, a Ph.D. is the way to go. The point of a D.Min. (what is meant by a “professional degree”) is that one presses in deeply into the context of ministry in the church (or mission or hospital). Most D.Min. topics are grounded in the local context of that particular pastor. e.g. topics like: church planting in urban Atlanta, Christian education practices in ESL contexts, etc… The point is not to prepare to teach a subject (unless it’s that particular context), but to deepen present ministry. So, many programs focus on preaching or leadership or counseling or missions… things specifically set in the context of parish ministry. The M.D./medical Ph.D. distinction is still helpful to me. One trains people to do medicine, the other to research and teach medicine and advance the field. I think the distinction is similar with the D.Min. and religious Ph.D.

    • says

      After taking a 10 course Diploma in Biblical Studies and over 30 years of ministry experience, I was a accepted by unanomous vote for a scholarship to the Doctor of Ministry Program, with New Covenant International Bible College. This was an accelerated program which required completion of 2 courses and required exams at a time. This was the hardest experience of my life, and each course seemed impossible to pass, but God was with me. Moreover, I started in 2005 and had to be done by 2007. By independent research I completed a 120 page Master Thesis, and a 200 Page Doctoral Dissertation, all by the expected time. Truly the Lord is good! On June 1, 2011 I published an expanded version of chapter 1 of my Master Thesis. I called it Ministry of Hermeneutics, presented by Song of Life and the Key of C Symposium. Feel free to get it at

      As a church musician, my purpose was not to get a raise, but to get more of God. As a result, I can be a greater asset to the body of Christ.

      Gregory E. Sephus

  7. says

    It seems a bit difficult to discuss in the abstract (that is, abstracted from what you’d like to do, which specific programs your discussing, etc.). To complicate matters furthers, you can also get a Th.D.

    • Johnson says

      The Th.D is a research degree that is equel to the Ph.D degree. The Doctor of Theology degree is the oldest Doctorate degree known. The requirements to complete the Th.D program are very intense; and demanding. Harvard University offers both a Ph.D in Theology and the Th.D in Theology. The two schools are located beside each other; and students take instruction from both schools during there degree programs

  8. Brian says

    I’m about to finish my undergrad and I’m looking at going into ministry so I’m thinkn to myself “where can I sign up?” Of course I have to be smart though, I dont want to be OVERqualified. Thanks for the insightful post.

  9. Sarah says

    The comments about academic v. professional/practical are something to heed – and some programs are more intense, even within the same seminary!
    I’m in a D.Ed.Min program – in a year with a 400 hour practicum and all it will entail (still developing it – on worship music and religious education), with three two-week intensives with about 1000+ pages of reading, monthly threaded conversations on the topics of the month. Total of 7 required courses, two electives, a practicum and a final project – over 4 years. While working fulltime and doing other things.

    It is not fluff. I am not doing it for prestige. I am doing as a lifelong learner. And yeah, I am doing it, in some aspects, for the credentials and a way to bolster longer-term earning power As a single for 12 years women with two mostly grown kids, who will be working into her late 60’s/early 70’s by my estimations, and who has butted against the glass ceiling since gradutaing from college in the later 70’s – it won’t hurt the potential, it ain’t a magic potion – and the experience is to be in a learning community that values learning and one another – it is mostly to be more effectively prepared and energized to do what I am called to do.

  10. Jay says

    The bottom line is do what God has called you to do. I am a D.Min. student at United Theological Seminary in Dayton and I found it to be an enhancement to the ministry God has called me to. I have successfully defended my dissertation and believe me, it wasn’t a cake walk. Also, I know 3 peers who graduated from United and they are teaching at seminaries and Christian colleges and universities because they have terminal degrees. So even with a D.Min., God will still open doors.

  11. Craig Watts says

    I took a D.Min a Boston University. I wanted to work on a Ph.D. but wasn’t willing to put my family through the sacrifice necessary for a residential degree. I actually did my class work in Boston but mostly did it in summers or during short terms. But I would very much like to teach. I’ve had more academic work published than most professors but that doesn’t matter. Without the Ph.D. you can’t get an interview. Reinhold Niebuhr or Karl Barth would be left out in the cold in the 21st century.

    It certainly is true that some D.Min. degrees are “fluff” and shame on the seminaries or universities who allow that to happen.

  12. Pastor Christian says

    Interesting read.

    I am just finishing a D.Min. Matter of fact, as I type this, I am sitting here with specialty paper getting ready to print out my final binding copies.

    Before I began the D.Min. program, I thought that it was a lite degree and was taking it to help me in the ministry. As I now finish the program, I can’t tell you how wrong I was.

    I attended the School of Evangelism and Church Growth at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Before my first class, I submitted a 5 page book critique for a “reading” just to make sure I was doing it right. Please understand, I spent 15 hours on this 5 page critique. I edited it 3 times, my wife (who is an unbelievable proof-reader) proofed it, then I proofed it again, gave it back to her, and then proofed it again once after she gave it back to me. When I picked up the critique a week later, the professor had marked all over the paper and on the top was the phrase, “This is a good start.” I was mortified.

    Over the next four years, I read over 3,000 pages PER SEMESTER, wrote NUMEROUS book critiques, research papers, etc. etc. We also had post-seminar work to accomplish in online forums with the professor and the rest of the cohort, including more reading of other books (not included in the above 3,000).

    After all that was over, the project started. Two chapters of in-depth research, then after approval, 15 weeks of a project within the church. That project and its analysis made up two other chapters. Beyond all of that, I then had to go and defend the project. While my defense wasn’t that bad, there were a number of changes I had to make.

    Now, at the end of this journey (and a month from beginning a Th.M. and hopefully a Ph.D. at another seminary), I can say that my D.Min in no way is a fluff degree.

    With all that said, there are many fly-by-night programs, in many different fields. Find a program that is in a respected school, with respected professors in the field you want.

    Then do it. It is a great Professional degree.

  13. MDiv Student with several secular degrees says

    Tisk Tisk on most of you. It appears that most of you have made degrees an Idol. It is not about you but about doing God’s work. Stop talking about yourself and go out into the world and preach the good news. You don’t need a degree to do this, in fact all you need is faith. Degree’s are human made, I say throw them in the trash.

    • Stacey Frith-Smith says

      Don’t be so dogmatic. The degrees may be man made and of variable relevance, but the people who are pursuing them are using the opportunity to interface with others in deep study of the scriptures and the perfecting of the craft (art? science?) of ministry. Holster that smoking finger you are busily pointing and allow others the liberty in Christ to follow their conscience and serve Him with excellence. **future seminarian, God willing

  14. Guy with two doctorates says

    I did a D.Min., which led to doing the Ph.D. Doing the D.Min. led me to want to do more serious academic work. While doing the ph.D., though, I went back and finished the D.Min. shortly before finishing the Ph.D.

    I have met people with D.Min degrees who did it for prestige, and I have also met some that I thought had no business in any graduate program, let alone a doctoral program. One of the biggest jerks I have met along my journey was a Princeton DMin who acted like he was the resident scholar in the denomination because of this “prestige.” He used to abuse students in the in-care process, including me. One time I pulled his dissertation while visiting the PTS library–it was a 60 page history of his own congregation, and on top of that it sucked. I was ready for the next time he decided to throw some theology at me (as a candidate for ordination) like some expert to be like, I know what the D stands for in your degree. He was also seriously academically misinformed about basic theology and facts about world religions–but it was because he had this degree and he carried himself a certain way he spoke with authority.

    But I can say that I had DMin classes that were more work than my PhD classes and the difficult question of ‘where does theory hit the pavement’ is always relevant in the DMin classes. More often than not this question was laughable in the PhD.

    The biggest difference between the two for me was the PhD comprehensvie exams, language exams, and the more serious dissertation that makes a clearly original academic contribution. You could do this kind of dissertation/project in a DMin, but more often it was taking some theory and putting it into practice in some project. But those projects also involved using social science and statistical methods for analyzing the data, too, and I have seen Psy.D dissertations in the social sciences which were not dissimilar. The DMin programs just don’t have the exams and the languages–but those were the biggest hurdles in the PhD program, at least for me.

    Also, there was a study you can find on the internet of students in the DMin programs in the US in the late 1990s. One of the biggest findings was that the DMin acted as a ritual for mid-career pastors to return to seminary and be refreshed in their love of learning (whatever that might mean) to bring about new focus or excitement in the second half of a professional career. Being that this is the point of burnout for many, it has morphed into what was argued to be a much needed “ritual.” Those who earned a DMin usually changed jobs and had higher salaries within five years, but it isn’t necessarily BECAUSE of the degree but because of new-found focus and excitement to move on to something new. Take that however you want.

  15. Tony Rigonan says

    The quality of D.Min one gets depends on the university/school of divinity or theology one gets it. Programs, professors, and demands vary. There is no one set of standard for the D.Min. much like there is no one set standard for M.Div. The quality depends on the school program, faculty, and Church the school is affiliated with. There are easy D.Mins and hard D.Mins. You have to ask the person where he graduated from, look at the school progam, and then decide whether you have a world-class “Rev Dr.” in front of you =).

  16. William says

    Something else to toss into the pot, some fields of study can’t as easily be followed through a PhD program. An example from my life would be combining training to be a C.P.E. supervisor with a doctoral program to further the study and learning in that specialty.

  17. Daryl says

    Which of these degrees comes complete with a “higher” calling from the Holy Spirit? Oh, almost forgot, we don’t have much need for a calling when we can just judge by titles.

    We should be careful how much world we let into the ministry. No degree will ever determine how much the spirit chooses to work through a person.

    • Mart says

      No, but Spirit will flow through a vessel that is working in cooperation with him. And studies are part of spiritual discipline.

    • Bob says

      For me, the call to enter a D. Mi. program was similar to the call to ministry. I discerned the call the same way and finally said yes to God. The degree does not mean there is a call, the call means there is a call.

    • Crawford says

      I heard it said that God can use any tool that He wants to accomplish His task. However, a well sharpened tool can be used more effectively. Go to school, get the tools, and allow the Spirit to be your guide.

  18. Bridget says


    I know my friend Nicole who is a psychologist is living out the calling she received from God through the Holy Spirt. As are Mark and Nancy who teach in a seminary. Also Bob who teaches high school physics. We in the ministry need to be cautious when playing the “God (or Holy Spirit) card” that we don’t limit the intervening power of the Trinity to those of us who have been call to vocations within the church. Ideally all of us would be seeking the vocation God has chosen to us and therefore following the call of the Spirit. For many, that requires a PhD.

  19. Pastor Christian says


    Scripture also says to study to show yourself approved. While that is not necessarily formalized study, it is foolish in my opinion to avoid the opportunities to learn from men and women of God that have gone before us. Higher Education in the realm of Christianity does just that, it enables us to explore the depth and breadth of our Christian heritage in many ways, including scripture, our belief about what is said in scripture (theoogy), how others have lived out that scripture (history/their testimony), and how we are to put that scripture into practice in our churches (pastoral theology, which is the essence of a D.Min).

    It is just as wrong to assume that those who seek higher degrees are doing it out of a lack of calling, or to assume that people replace a call to ministry with a title when searching for candidates.

    • V. Holland says

      Sir, your response is quite valued and respected as it contains no “I”, or “me” or any offensive or judgmental comments. It is obvious by your comment that your response was spirit-led as you referenced the scriptures which clearly commands our consideration and action in every leadership decision we make. There are many scriptural references throughout the New Testament addressing this very issue – of education. It is unfortunate that reverence for the leading of the Holy Spirit and trust in a true calling of ministry is lost in the judgement of worldly opinions.

  20. Pastor Byars says

    I do not believe that all D.Min. programs are fluff. I think that is too broad of a generalization. I know people who have D.Min degrees that teach and have taught at some of the most prestigious seminaries in the world. I think it is more about how God opens up the doors and about how you use not abuse the gift of having obtained the degree. I am finishing my M.Div degree and I have every intention of going on to United Theological Seminary in Dayton OH for my D.min degree and as a back up I am looking at Lincoln Christian College and Theological Seminary in Lincoln IL. I believe the Holy spirit is a key factor in our usefullness in ministry but one should examine themselves to determine why one is pursuing any theological education.

  21. says

    I agree with several others here including Robert. The D.Min. is not a “fluff” degree. It is a professional degree usually designed for those already in ministry. For those wishing to teach in a seminary or Bible college, then the D.Min. isn’t for them. If you’re going to be a pastor or engaged in missions work and need additional training beyond the M.Div., then the D.Min is a good choice. I just have to qualify that last statement by saying a D.Min. at a good school is a good choice. There are, as anyone knows, some very weak non-accredited programs out there too – so be careful when you look!

  22. Chris says

    I’m currently in a secular M.S. program but am looking to change to a M.Min. program. I have no desire for an M.Div. but am considering pursuing a D.Min. after my masters degree. I think whether or not you get a Ph.D./Th.D. or a D.Min. depends on what you want to do with it. The Ph.D./Th.D. is designed for those wanting to teach Theology/Bible at the seminary or divinity school level or specific religion areas of secular institution. However above the practical aspects of the D.Min. it has significant teaching applications as well–just in different ways. Those who possess D.Min. are often hired by Christian/Bible colleges as well as training institutes to teach at the undergraduate level. Those with D.Min. are also often more qualified to teach in specialty ministry area such as counseling, family studies, organizational leadership, etc. Especially those with D.Min.’s and the academic work in areas like family studies and counseling can find opportunities at secular institutions at both the graduate and undergraduate level. So it’s really a question of what you want to do—teach theology, bible, etc. and you need a Ph.D. or Th.D.—teach counseling, family studies, or another practitioner related field a D.Min. would well serve you.

    Also heres an additional note be very careful of where you get your D.Min. or Ph.D./Th.D. from—and I don’t mean using diploma mills—if you are planning to move beyond teaching at a seminary, training institute, or bible institute. ATS accreditation (alone) isn’t very strong outside of the seminary world. Make sure where you go is regionally accredited if you want to move beyond the world of seminaries, bible institutes, and training centers. The secular world tends to focus primarily on the regional accreditation and others as supplementary. I have a friend who has an M.Div. from a regionally accredited university with no ATS accreditation and he always has job offers to teach religion at jr. colleges and small christian colleges. In fact he is a tenure professor of philosophy and religion at a JUCO and is an adjuct for a Christian college. He tells me all the time he has friends who have D.Min.’s & Ph.D.’s from ATS only programs and they have a hard time finding work

  23. Bill says

    When I arrived at my current position (teaching at a university) I was embarrassed that my doctorate was “only” a DMin. But, over the past decade, all my measures of performance, academic or administrative, have consistently equaled or exceed those of my PhD colleagues and it’s amazing, once one is hired (still a big hurdle), how little difference it makes. All the university sees is performance.

    Apparently the chagrin about not-being-a-real-doctorate is limited to clergy. In the university world there are just PhD’s and “others”. My PhD, EdD, and PsyD coworkers accept it as a doctorate without qualms. One time I remarked to two of my fellow professors, PhD’s from Emory and Cornell, that the DMin was of “variable” quality. They both looked at me like I was a complete idiot and said, almost in unison, “You think that’s not true of PhD programs?” And when was the last time you met an MD or JD who apologized for their degree being practice oriented rather than academic?

    DMin’s do tend to show up more in the higher ranks of professional organizations than academia but that’s to be expected. Anyway, many years ago I made the conscious choice not to get a PhD precisely because I felt it was my duty, as a pioneer (my DMin was granted in 1977), to help enhance the reputation of the degree. I’m now a full Professor and Program Chair at a regionally accredited university.

    I suppose the point is that the point of any education is not the title; Rev, Dr, Baron – whatever. The point is fitness to serve.

      • John C. Coutino says

        Jim, The saddest of all degrees?!? I ask you that same question like Pastor Christian.
        You have no idea what it takes to obtain a Religious Degree. I bet you are an Atheist ! Right?

        I respect anyone who has Earned a Religious Degree of Choice because it was God's will for them to become instructed and well educated and trained in their field.

        Just curious, what "Secular Degree do you have? That enjoy humiliating Religious Degrees?
        Fools despise Wisdom and Instruction. (Prov.)

  24. says

    As an extension to Robert Austell’s comments, the D.Min. degree is practical degree. Much like an MBA or an Ed.D. or for that matter, an M.D., it is a terminal degree intended for people who will be working in the field. In this case, the field is ministry. It is by no means a “fluff” degree — it is not intended to be an “academic” degree to prepare one to teach, although it is not uncommon to find folks with D.Min. degrees teaching, or preaching, or ministering, or serving people in some other manner. A large component of a D.Min. degree is that commitment to service, in fact.

    I administer MA and D.Min. progams in theology (Orthodox Christian Theology in the Eastern Context). Our MA is an (applied) academic degree; the D.Min., like others, is a “professional” degree, designed for people who are or will be pastors, deacons, church-school directors, chaplains, missionaries, and so forth. From my perspective, both progams are very challenging. Students in the MA program read over 10,000 pages and write at least three papers for each class. In the final year, students complete their research and thesis. (The MA is optional. Some students stop with a post-bacc certificate rather than continue with the thesis and MA.)

    In order to go on to the D.Min. program (from the MA or another graduate degree), students must have experience in ministry of some sort and must have an adequate background in theology. So before students are even admitted, they must have a certain level of competency.

    I am in a Ph.D. program myself. Although I must say that it is truly quite challenging, I believe that the D.Min. program is no less challenging — and no less rewarding. Kudos to anyone who undertakes this important course of study in the spirit of service for which it is intended.

    Best regards,
    Cheri Mullins
    Principal, Mullins Companies
    Knowledge Management, Technical Communication, Training

    Administrator, Antiochian House of Studies
    St. Stephen’s Program, MA, DMin

    PhD Student, Texas Tech University

  25. says

    BTW, Feel free to contact me if you want more information about the programs offered under the umbrella of the Antiochian House of Studies: certificate and MA programs in Applied Orthodox Theology and DMin program in Orthodox Christian Theology in the Eastern Context.

  26. Dave C. says

    My experience with my D. Min. program is both the regional and ATS accrediting agencies have been “raising the bar” for this degree throughout the years. My “project” was indeed a long dissertation. In fact, we used PhD. study handbooks to write the paper. It is by no means a “fluff” degree. However, getting a teaching position beyond community college or local technical school is next to impossible. I have been told on numerous occasions that there are “flood of PhDs out there already working in the Malls.” So I believe one must get any doctoral degree simply because they cherish the intrinsic value of the education. It has also kept me sharp intellectually as a parish pastor.
    The word “Dr.” does not carry as much weight as “Pastor” in my denomination because we had so many candidacy and M. Div. “Hoops” to jump through.

  27. says

    According to the U.S. Department of Education and the National Science Foundation, the D.Min. is equivalent to, but different from (A D.Min. may not be able to write a book to ave his life, but a Ph.D. might not be able to plant a church or found an organization to save his life – although there are certainly exceptions to these general truisms), the Ph.D. Also, the D.Min. is considered by the aforementioned organizations to be a higher tier degree that the M.D. The M.D. is considered a “first graduate degree,” just like the M.Div. The D.Min. and Ph.D. degrees are both considered “second graduate degrees.” At the end of the day, the D.Min. is not any more of a fluff degree than is a Ph.D. It all has to do with where you get either of these degrees. There are degree mills and there are institutions that are regionally and ATS accredited. Any D.Min. or Ph.D. that is not accredited by both of these organizations is not worth the paper it is printed on.

    • V. Holland says

      Thank you for your academic response. You clearly answer the question as it was intended, and provided evidence, something anyone having experienced grad school in any discipline should be able to respect.

  28. Sam says

    Peter the apostle was considered uneducated. Yet when he preached, 3000 turned to Christ with one single message. What was the reason? He had the anointing of the Holy Spirit. Without anointing, no matter how many degrees you have, it is useless…

    • Pastor Christian says

      That is true, when they were first called by Jesus. But they were then discipled for three years by Jesus. By the time of the crucifixion, they had as much if not more direct education then a lot of pastors in the pulpits over the last half a century. Then, look at Paul, who had the equivalent of a Ph.D. in his day (trained as a Pharisee among Pharisees) and STILL went away to be discipled thereafter.

      The fact of the matter is that being called to the ministry is a holistic call. It is not just about a “spiritual” leading. It is about training the mind as well. A quick read through the New Testament and the sermons of Peter and others show astounding theological motifs and understandings that probably weren’t present (they were fishermen) when they were called to be with Jesus.

      After all, as a great man of God once said, “Jesus trained 30 years to be in a 3 year ministry. You can train 3 years for a 30 year ministry.”

  29. Lynne says

    As a state-licensed psychotherapist and university instructor, I hold two masters and a D.Min. My co-workers who hold the PhD, MD, and PsyD make no distinction. In fact, I have found the opposite to be true. When others learn of my degree they demonstrate a great regard and respect for the work and for the calling to the ministry. Many counselors and psychotherapists hold the D.Min. As a practical doctorate, my seminary training greatly enhanced my counseling and teaching skills. My D.Min opened a way for me to teach at a prestigious university, become a university chaplain, and I have a thriving psychotherapy practice. I ask each of my patients why they choose me–over other therapists–and hands down it is because they saw the D.Min, and they very much seek someone who is going to take a mind-body-spirit approach. But, the bottom line is that I felt called to seminary, and my time there cannot be matched. I will never forget what my professor said on my first day. He told the class that many hurting people go to medical doctors to heal their bodies, but if their spirits are broken, they will continue to suffer; doctors of ministry work through God to heal the broken spirit. I think that is beautiful. If a reader is trying to determine whether or not to seek a D.Min, please do not base your decision on the few opinions here. Pray, seek God’s face in your answer. If you choose the D.Min for the right reasons, I seriously believe you will not regret it. It is a unique spiritual quest.

  30. says

    In 1975 when the D. Min was is the process of being accepted, the Graduate Theological Union and San Francisco Theological Seminary set the bar high to assure that they would be accedited. I would put it aside any Ph.D. program. I subjected myself to it because I wanted to call myself Dr. when I made reservations for dinner. It never got me a better seat, but it made people's expectations higher and my production higher. I was called by the Holy Spirit to get it and I am glad I did.

  31. Lynne says

    Many people earn all types of degrees: MBA, MEd, PhD, D.Min, etc… but in the end it is the content of degree holder's character and their personal leadership skill set that is seen by industry, academic institutions, the publishing world, and beyond. No educational degree holds a person back. If a person has an earned degree and is not finding work, promotion, or profit, perhaps the problem does not lie in the degree; perhaps there needs to be some introspection. The D.Min is one of the most respectable degrees in the world of academia. The blessing, the learning, the collective wisdom imparted from my professors, and most of all–the blessing from God–has opened many doors. If you have a gift of leadership, a compelling personality, and if you are following God's path, you will humbly understand what it truly means to be a Doctor of Ministry. And, we do not do this for the title. Please do not allow the naysayers to sway you; it is, and always will be a highly regarded degree by the U.S. Department of Education.

  32. says

    Great dialogue in processing whether a D.Min. is a fluff degree. What I find fascinating is a number of Ph.D. holders who are now pursing their D.Min. degree. They already have the title of "Doctor" so why in the world would they want to spend the money and time to do another doctoral degree?

    Perhaps there are pressing questions asked by ministry leaders that a D.Min. is best designed to answer.

  33. A D.Min. Graduate says

    I finished my D.Min. at Oblate School of Theology, San Antonio, TX and it was not easy to get. My dissertation consists of 211 pages. The first part of the dissertation is theological reflection based on academic research, while the second part is based on the application of the theological reflection (of the first part) and the steps, results, and analysis of an experimental research on a parish.
    For one year and a half, my dissertation was coming back and forth to my dissertation team for corrections, suggestions, revisions, etc. Then, when my dissertation was considered theologically and experimentally sound, I had to make a 45-minute presentation without notes to the faculty, students, and visitors. After the 45-minute presentation, the faculty and visitors grilled me with questions, like a “holy inquisition” defending my ideas, theological reflection, and experimental design and results. After the “holy inquisition,” the faculty members met for a while to decide whether I was worthy to be called a “doctor.” Then after the faculty meeting, I was called to the faculty meeting place to receive the verdict that I was worthy to be called “doctor.”
    So is D.Min. a fluff degree? No. At least based on my experience with Oblate School of Theology, it is a degree for people who really know how to do sound and heavy theological research and reflection, apply one’s theological research and reflection, and measure, quantify, analyze, and interpret that application and its results.

  34. John C. Coutino says

    Is this question with the intention to mock true seekers of The Word Of God to continue with their good intentions and be better prepared to serve Yes The Lord, but the Church in particular and those in need of comfort, those that are in Grief and need counseling, and what better way to serve humanity but through Spiritual Counseling.
    There are reputable Universities and Institutes that will grant you a Degree of choice, and yes, Accredited. And I myself know many that are struggling to pay back the BIG loan obtain, and still cannot find a Church to serve, so they have no other alternative but to seek a secular job or continue with their present secular job.
    In the ministry field, Accredited or not accredited your degree does not make a big difference in my case.
    As long as you Did in Fact study, took the courses, years passed by and learned from the right sources the instruction you were yearning for and accomplished your goal, Bravo!

    As long as the Degree was earned and not bought, it's what count to many members of different congregations.
    The reverent and worshipful fear of The Lord is the beginning and the principal and choice part of knowledge (its starting point and its essence); but fools despise skillful and godly Wisdom, instruction, and discipline. 'The Amplified Bible'.
    The Apostle Paul said: "And they who have used the Office well…Acquired to themselves a Good Degree." I Tim. 3:10-13 KJV

    Many may do it for the earnings, the money. But many of us do it for His service, and to serve humanity, just like any other Medical Doctor in his field.

    Than you.
    A humble servant.

  35. kryg says

    One can notice that Princeton Theological Seminary (PTS) changed the name of their D.Min. degree to Ph.D. in Practical Theology. See the content of PTS' Ph.D. in Practical Theology course:… . The reasons probably are: a) just to be different and, b) so their graduates can teach having a Ph.D. instead of a D.Min. Note however that many D.Min. schools of theology have been raising their quality of teaching and students. There will probably come a time when many with D.Min. can teach pastoral theology in schools of theology and universities. Note also than many with D.Min. have other master degrees which can be used for teaching. The Association of Theological Schools (ATS) of US and Canada should screen carefully those member schools which easily grant the D.Min. degree. Easy granting D.Min. degree schools of theology give the D.Min. degree a bad reputation. Thus, for those who are contemplating to get a D.Min., be sure to get yours from a reputable school of theology with a quality "brand" or "trademark."

    By the way, do not confuse Princeton Theological Seminary with Princeton University. PTS is not part of the University.

  36. Lynne says

    Since one must have the M.Div degree or equivalent before entering a D.Min, there is no such thing as an easy D.Min. There is no other masters that requires the depth and number of hours of the M.Div. Thus, the D.Min is a continuation of an already robust course of study. ATS requires a person enter with a minimum of 75-90 graduate hours before they can even be considered for a D.Min. Ph.D programs allow students to enter with a mere 30 graduate hours. There is really nothing to argue about here. Bottom line: the D.Min is a well-respected, highly-regarded degree. It has allowed me to teach at many highly respected universities. If someone has a D.Min, and that person is not excelling with it; he or she should look into the mirror—not the degree.

  37. rec says

    I consider the DMin a "fluff" degree in general, because I have known and worked with many who have earned this easy title. Not one of them could have survived a PhD program, as I did. After working my way through an academically-rigorous course of study to earn my own doctorate, I cannot take seriously those who believe attending part-time for a year or so is the equivalent. The fact that they themselves find the program challenging says more about them than it does about the program. The DMin is, after all, a professional degree, not a scholarly one. I rank it with honorary degrees in value – a nice title if one wants to feel important, but short on substance.

  38. Lynne says

    REC: May I give you a gentle challenge? Perhaps you have not done your research. Many on the board hold the PhD and the DMin. I hold a DMin, and I am at the dissertation stage of my PhD; thus far, my PhD studies have been a walk in the park in comparison. Did you know that a D.Min student cannot even enter without a 75-90 hour MDiv or equivalent (which includes Hebrew, Greek, etc…)? PhD programs only require a 30 hour masters to enter. Using knowledge from your PhD, could it be that your response is not based on fact but on personal opinion? It is important for us to discuss that which we know, and not advisable to discuss that which we do not; which should be taught in any DMin or PhD program of substance. But, most important is what is learned in a DMin. The DMin creates Doctors of Ministry, those who draw upon ancient truth that brokenness can only be mended when a person's spirit is whole. All learning is worthwhile (yours and mine) when, in the end, it helps others to be transformed through the renewing of their minds as they grow to be more like Christ. I do not believe the typical DMin student enters to boast a title; this would go against their belief in humility and denying self.

  39. Dave C. says

    If one wants to go down the "personal ancedote" path regarding doctoral degrees, I can point out a number of PhD graduates who tenaciously hide behind their academic tenure because without their tenured positions, their knowledge would at best get them a job as a fast food restaurant manager or selling shoes at the area shopping mall. I can identify PhD graduates who could never survive even 1 week in a congregation as a Pastor as I do [21 + years] with my D. Min. degree. The ATS does keep its eyes on the academic requirements of the D. Min. degree as I see it. The one who criticizes the D. Min. actually needs to target their words toward the ATS accrediting agency [who by the way is looking at PhD programs online!]

  40. Pastor Christian says

    I am one of those who has done a D.Min, and am currently involved in a Ph.D. program (OT).

    The fact of the matter is, they are completely different animals. I do however, think it is quite telling, that at least three of us in the Ph.D. program, have a D.Min. The bottom line is, as I said before, it depends very much on WHERE you get your degree from. The EXACT same is true of a Ph.D. program.

    However, I find it much easier to hide away in a library and write for a number of hours, than I did writing, then leading a 15 week seminar using metrics to test the change I was introducing, then reporting and analyzing said change for my D.Min.

  41. Chaplain Mike says

    Ok, I have been praying and researching the possiblity of pursuing a DMin for quite sometime. I hear many of you say that it depends on where you get your DMin as to whether or not it’s a fluff degree. So where do you recommend? What have you heard about Gordon-Conwell?

    Chaplain Mike

    • says

      The most rigorous and legitimate programs are ATS (Association of Theological Schools) accredited. Go to for a complete list of accredited schools. You can even look them up based on the region you live in.

  42. Dave C. says

    I have a clergy friend who did a D. Min. in Preaching at Gordon Conwell. It was challenging, and he had a good experience in the program. It helped his preaching tremendously.

  43. Brock says

    Thanks to all for the great discussion on this page. I’m a pastor who holds an M.Div. from Baylor University and am considering returning there to earn a D.Min. I really appreciate the “real-world” information you’ve all related on the practicality of the degree (sorry for the pun), and believe that you’ve all helped me greatly make my decision.
    Like some of you, I had considered the D.Min. to be a “Mickey Mouse” degree compared to the Ph.D., but I had no real reason for this belief. I had assumed that anything less than a Ph.D. was sub-standard, and that whether I intended to teach at the university or seminary level or not I should strive for the excellence afforded a Doctor of Philosophy. However, I think that I’ve learned enough about myself and my calling to see that I am a pastor, regardless of the degrees I hold (I have a B.S. in Mathematics) I cannot escape the nature and grace that have been given me.
    To that end, I have a question about everyone’s experiences in the programs they’ve attended: I understand that the culminating project (or dissertation?) is contextual, and is limited by the ministry setting in which I find myself while in the program. However, I have a distinct calling to a field that is significantly different than my current setting (church school administrator rather than local church pastor). Would it be better for me to enter the D.Min. program when I’m in a more “appropriate” ministry setting, or should I attempt to tailor a project to some sort of happy middle between where I am and where I feel that I ultimately will be?

  44. Lynne says

    Brock: You may want to read some of my other responses on the board as well (just scroll up to find my last three posts). You might be interested to know that ATS schools also have a D.Ed.Min (Doctor of Educational Ministry). This might suit your needs a bit more. You can go to the ATS website to find schools that currently offer this degree.

  45. Lynne says

    To All Those Doubting the Value of a D.Min:

    May I give you a gentle challenge? Perhaps you have not done your research. Many on the board hold the PhD and the DMin. I hold a DMin, and I am at the dissertation stage of my PhD; thus far, my PhD studies have been a walk in the park in comparison. Did you know that a D.Min student cannot even enter without a 75-90 hour MDiv or equivalent (which includes Hebrew, Greek, etc…)? PhD programs only require a 30 hour masters to enter. Using knowledge from your PhD, could it be that your response is not based on fact but on personal opinion? It is important for us to discuss that which we know, and not advisable to discuss that which we do not; which should be taught in any DMin or PhD program of substance. But, most important is what is learned in a DMin. The DMin creates Doctors of Ministry, those who draw upon ancient truth that brokenness can only be mended when a person’s spirit is whole. All learning is worthwhile (yours and mine) when, in the end, it helps others to be transformed through the renewing of their minds as they grow to be more like Christ. I do not believe the typical DMin student enters to boast a title; this would go against their belief in humility and denying self.

  46. Jewel, Ph.D., D.Min. says

    All of the comments are interesting…but perhaps the issue is whatever the doctoral degree in theology or applications of theogy are involved in pursuit of D.Mins. Ph.D’s. D.Th’s. S.T.D.’s, J.C.D., etc. are any of us in theology for prestige or for “more money” or benefits. Taking on the discipline of studying theology, whatever its branches, should be about knowing and living more deeply the truth of Who God is and His work in all of us.
    I have both a Ph.D. and a D.Min. from two different well known Universities. Neither was a correspondence degree program or a watered down process. The major difference was
    1) No comprehensive examinations for the D.Min and 2) no language requirement at the doctoral level. However with regard to the latter most D.Min candidates on the way to the doctor of ministry have already been required to study the biblical languages, Hebrew, Greek, Latin and possibly even pastoral Spanish at the Master’s Level. Many who earn a Ph.D. are not required to do so. In my Ph.D. requirements for language I took a comprehensive language test one morning in Spanish and it turned out to be from well known Don Qixote. The other language was knowing a computer language like DOS or Fortran. Both required research for the final doctoral project but the D.Min required practical application of theology studies to a real problem in the real world of ministry.
    Broad strokes against any degree should not be made. It comes down to the quality of the individual doctoral programs in the various seminaries and univesities and most of all to the individual student. Some scrape through and barely earn any doctorate…most are serious about their subject matter. Academics or pay raise or prestige is not the criteria in the field of theology. Why did I get two doctorates – Ph.D. was first because a D.Min was not available to me at the time. The D.Min came in my later years when I was driven to learn more and more about God and His people… and guess what – I am still auditing
    formal courses in various theological areas – we can never know everything there is to know about God!


  47. St. Mark says

    WOW! You really sound cynical about Dr. Pastor. With that degree of cycnicism, no ph.d or MinD will help you be a better pastor. Skip the degree and concentrate on developing minsterial qualities …. hope, respect, forgiveness, coaching, mentoring, and love of Christ.

  48. LouDe1 says

    Someone mentioned a D.Ed.Min… can the above contributors give more information/opinion on this type of degree? Prereguisites? Time involved? Any information is greatly appreciated. Blessings.

    • Donna says

      You can go to the Association of Theological Schools and Colleges (ATS) website to learn a bit more. The D.Ed.Min is for those involved in Educational Ministry. Typically, anyone who enters seminary must have an M.Div. or equivalent. This is usually a 76-90 hour masters degree. One must typically have at least 60 hours of graduate studies to enter any type of seminary doctorate.

  49. says

    I completed my second Masters Degree (M.Div.) in 1995. I am thinking about another program of study. Leaving my parsonage is not an option. So, I am seriously considering a D.Min. I am thankful for the option.

  50. says

    I am irritated to think that there are men and women in ministry who think they need an advanced degree to move up the ladder. Question: where in the Bible do you EVER get that kind of idea? Discipleship is never about moving up, its about moving down. What did Paul say about all his accomplishments and ‘degrees’? They were unrecoverable soggy dung heaps. He also stated clearly that his personal mission was to take the Gospel to the Gentiles even if it cost him his life. It doesn’t sound like he was plugging for a raise or title.

    I have earned two masters degrees and am now enrolled at in their “Engaging Mind and Culture’ D.min track. It will not be fluff. This first year I have to read, annotate, and report on 3000+ pages by January 3. Then spend two weeks in CA for class, follow-up with more writing projects, and then repeat this process three times and then write a lengthy dissertation.

    I have been asked if I want to teach (I have a close connection with a local Bible College and Seminary), get a better pay package, etc. The answer to all of that is – I don’t care. It is all about the mission. I want God to keep me humble and still be “Andy” to those I am tasked with leading/shepherding. By God’s grace I will not create a gap between the laity and the professional pastor. Again, not biblical.

    Our church is of about 200 people and we operate on a shoestring. We have desperate people who are looking for hope and answers. I am investing in this program so that I can serve the kingdom better by serving the people better. They respect and love me and it does not matter to them what degree I have. The most important title that will ever appear on my business card is Pastor, but they still call me Andy.

    There are two other men who volunteer in the pastoral team. They both have P.hds. They both regularly sacrifice for the mission and never pull the professor card. I want to be like them.

    I think for some who are considering getting more education (which is a good thing) to do a gut check. What is your motivation? If it is not ministry effectiveness for the mission then maybe all that money could be spent on a boat or something.

  51. Shane C says

    I have Bachelor of Business Administration degrees in Accounting and Finance from Texas A&M and a Master of Divinity degree from an Assemblies of God University. I was just as much of a minister as someone with a Ph.D. in religion when God placed a call on my life at 14 years old. But I felt led by the Holy Spirit to complete a Master of Divinity degree in seminary.

    I know ministers who were led by the Holy Spirit to complete doctorate degrees. However, for every minister I know who was led by the Spirit, I know 9 who did it for a man created title in front of their name. In other words, educational pride. All true God called ministers will be accountable for what God called them to do in their ministry. I don’t think God is going to ask if you had a D.Min. or Ph.D.?

    By the way, weren’t the Pharisees also fixated on titles???

  52. Matthew Scraper says

    I am in the final stages of an Mdiv program, and am serving full time in the United Methodist Church. What is perhaps more relevant, however, is that I am the son of a minister who is currently serving as both a full-time pastor and part time professor, and holds both a DMin and a PhD. What my father regularly reminds me as I contemplate further education, is that while a PhD holds a tremendous amount of weight in the academic community, it is a degree with an extremely specific focus. As he often shares with me, a PhD is not an expert in religion, religious studies, or any other larger topic, but is rather the expert in whatever extremely specific research interest has been engaged. In contrast, (as my father reminds me) a DMin is not expected to be the expert, but is certainly expected to be an expert in the intersection between the various topics of study in the field of religious studies. Further, my father also reminds me that while those engaged in a PhD program often criticize the MDiv, the MDiv is still between 84 and 96 hours of graduate theological education (depending on the institution), which when combined with the DMin studies represents far more graduate theological hours than are required in most 90 hour PhD programs, of which the first 30 hours usually comprise the master’s portion of the degree. It is not surprising, certainly, that the academic community more highly values the PhD, simply because the PhD is an academic, research degree. However, I would not discount the far greater number of graduate theological hours that go into the total DMin (which includes the MDiv) and the level of expertise required of MDiv/DMin graduates in more than one area of religious studies. Of course, there is an argument that is likely to be made that PhD courses are far more difficult than MDiv/DMin courses. My response to that would be that the reading and writing required in the MDiv/DMin programs are not insubstantial, and should be taken on their own merit, according to what they do offer, which again is a high level of expertise within the field of religious studies as a whole, and not one small portion of it.

  53. Matthew Scraper says

    A little more on the topic…

    So, I am in the final stages of an Mdiv program, and am serving full time in the United Methodist Church. As a result, I have recently been looking at the possibility of continuing my education, via a doctoral program of some kind. For those who may not be aware, in the field of religious studies, that generally means that I am looking at either the PhD, ThD, or DMin degree. While the PhD and ThD are academic, research-oriented degrees which typically require a number of years of full-time study in residence at a university, the DMin is designed for those who are engaged in the practice of ministry and is normally earned through part-time study, with travel to and from the institution required several times throughout the year.

    As I have been researching this, I have come across a number of opinions regarding the perceived superiority of the PhD to the DMin (I include the ThD with the PhD for the purposes of this discussion). It would seem that a number of those involved in academia strongly consider the DMin to be a “fluff” degree, one that does not allow its holder to be considered an expert in much of anything. What I therefore present here are some of my own considerations on this topic. I will state here that I am aware that the field of religious studies includes study outside of the context of the Christian Faith. What I offer here is therefore specific to those studying, within the field of Religious Studies, relative to Christianity.

    While a PhD holds a tremendous amount of weight in the academic community, it is a degree with an extremely specific focus. An individual with a PhD is therefore not an expert in religion, religious studies, or any other larger topic, but is rather the expert in the extremely specific research interest, that fall under a sub-topic of the larger field of religious studies, and has been engaged according to the research interests of the individual holding the degree. Therefore, someone with a PhD in New Testament studies may be well versed in the field as a whole, but should perhaps really only be considered an “expert” in the small area within the appropriate sub-field of religious studies, in which research has been conducted.
    In contrast, a DMin is not expected to be the expert, but is rather trained to be an expert in the larger field of religious studies, to include the intersection between the various topics of study within the field of religious studies. Further, the nature of DMin work is such that there is a natural focus on integrating scholarship with practical application. This does not diminish the weight of the scholarship involved, but does necessitate an intentional interaction between the various sub-fields of religious studies (how one informs the other) in a manner that provides relevant engagement with practiced theology.
    Next, we should look at requirements:
    i. The PhD generally requires a bachelor’s degree as a prerequisite.

    ii. Most PhD programs are around 90 hours in length, the first 30 of which is usually comprised of what is considered to be MA level work (taught work) followed by 30 hours of Doctoral level (taught) work, followed by around 30 hours of research and dissertation writing to include doctrinal exams.

    i. Most ThD programs are similar, with the exception that they generally require an MDiv as a prerequisite degree.

    i. Most DMin programs require the MDiv as a prerequisite degree, the MDiv normally comprising 84-96 hours of taught graduate theological education (institution dependent).

    ii. This is normally followed by around 27 hours of taught course work and a “project” of some kind, normally a dissertation and defense.

    iii. Most DMin programs require at least 3 years of full-time ministry experience (post MDiv) in order to be admitted into the program.

    i. The ThD and DMin require far more hours of taught graduate education than does the PhD. Additionally, the DMin seems to be the only degree that requires experience within the field of religion/theology/ministry in order to be admitted to the program

    This brings to mind a couple of questions:

    While I do not discount the benefit of having the opportunity to engage the (very) specific research of those having earned a PhD, what qualifies those with a PhD to teach outside of their own area of research? It would seem that it would make more sense to only allow PhD’s to teach within their specific area of research, and allow those with a broader education (and experience) within the larger field of religious studies the opportunity to teach outside of those very specific areas of research.
    As I reflect further, I find myself beginning to wonder why it is that practical experience in ministry is not a requirement for those seeking to teach seminarians. It would seem that while research is helpful to the larger practice of ministry, that it would be far more helpful to include those (in teaching positions) with real, practical experience working and serving in positions of ministry.
    Finally, while I will state again that I value the very specific research offered by the PhD community, I find no reason to consider someone with a very specific research concentration in one sub-field of religioius studies more of an expert within the field of religious studies (as a whole) than someone with a doctoral degree that focuses on the larger, general, and more practical applications within the field of religious studies.

    • Lee says

      Matthew, I enjoyed your comments very much! It seemed that you have a wonderful grasp of the three doctorael degree track that you could pursue. Have you made a decision yet in which track you will pursue? Selecting the institution that meets your spiritual development and professional goals would be an intense inquiry to research and compare. The best of institutions should be instrument in your professional placement and alumni support throughout your ministry career. However, often they want your monetary contributions and seldom if ever invite or involve you in the life of the institution as a lecturer or professor. The only advisement I would add to your pursuit is to consider a dual graduate degree that is relious and secular, such as Ph.D. in Religious Studies and a JD.

      May God Bless Your Endeavors,


  54. Dave C. says

    I think the jury is still out on even the M. Div. degree these days. There has been another “promusings” site on the value of an M. Div. degree. I observe some churches and fellowships calling pastors with business, communications an marketing degrees with some Bible courses added later. I am glad I worked hard for both my M. Div. and D. Min. degrees. But I fear that economics, time and financially struggling congregations will make the current traditional M. Div. degree model into a relic unless it can produce numerical results that other graduate degreess seem to produce. I lament this trend.

    I also work part-time at a community college to supplement my income at a small church [this is my 23rd year as an ordained pastor]. One observation I make in our state is that there are so many PhD and other graduate degrees in the academic market, that schools are starting to be quite degree specific as to who can teach which courses and how many accredited courses they must take? I had a Department Head tell me that Billy Grahamn could not teach Speech 101 in our college unless he had the right academic credentials….experience and track record aside. In this sense, I think there is something seriously wrong with academia in many fields of higher education.

    • Jim Olson says

      It doesn’t help that some of the mainline denominations are devaluing the M.Div in favor of “alternative paths to ministry”. My particular tradition has always highly valued an educated clergy.

  55. Shane C says

    I don’t mean to come across as unkind or a know it all, but what ever happened to simply trusting God and being led by the Holy Spirit. Everyone seems to be placing their faith in a title before their name, etc. God is sovereign and all powerful! Billy Graham didn’t need a D.Min. or Ph.D. to touch the world for Christ. Don’t misunderstand what I’m saying, there’s nothing wrong with obtaining a high level of formal education, i.e. Ph.D. in Religion, if led of God to minister in that realm. But most of the postings I’ve been reading infer most people are approaching obtaining a doctorate degree as mere means to gain prestige from men and women. I say this because people have been talking about how men and women would view a D.Min. verses a Ph.D. instead of how they would use a D.Min. or Ph.D. to bring others to Christ and minister to their respective church congregants.

    I’m a military Chaplain and have a M.Div. degree. But it’s not the Chaplain or M.Div. title that means anything. But rather, how I use the education obtained from my M.Div. program to bring others to Christ and minister to my respective flock. God divinely called me to be a minister at 14 years old for a reason. It would be a shame if I spent my entire life fixated on titles and degrees and didn’t accomplish anything meaningful in regards to building God’s kingdom.

  56. M Scraper says

    I guess that what I would offer here in response (respectfully), is not to assume that because this is a discussion about how people view doctoral degrees in religioius studies, that somehow that means that those engaged in the conversation are not at all passionate about serving God in whatever way God might call. That said, while I believe them to be helpful, I am not at all one who believes that God requires a degree to work through someone. Likewise, I don’t at all think that everyone who seeks a doctoral degree is simply looking for titles or letters before or after a name…none of us (or at least most of us) are not getting rich in ministry any time soon. Rather, I respect those who choose to pursue such degrees in spite of the fact that there isn’t really much data supporting the notion that doing so will lead to higher salary, advancement, etc….and certainly not proportionate to the resources that must be consumed in earning the degree. The reason that I respect those people is precisely because their effort shows a desire to be better prepared, and I suspect in most cases, to be better prepared to serve. it is quite a stretch, I believe, to assume that everyone who pursues such things is doing so purely out of selfish motivations.

    On a side note…it was an Army Chaplain who brought me into ministry while I was serving as an infantryman. God Bless You!

    • Shane C says

      I apologize if I came across as bashing people for obtaining doctorate degrees. That was not my intention. I didn’t assume anything or have preconceived ideas when I stumbled across this website. I believe in having a teachable spirit and an open mind. I too respect fellow ministers who have the self discipline to complete doctrate degrees in an effort to obtain additional educational tools to help them in their respective ministries.

      It wasn’t unitl I read the subtle references throughout the postings in regards to how people would perceive the different titles that I mentioned the need to approach obtaining a doctorate degree as an educational tool for ministry instead of a title behind or in front of a name. I simply felt some people on this website were focusing more on the “Dr.” aspect of a doctorate degree rather than the educational tools for ministry aspect.

      God wants us to have all the education we can get. But we need to be careful we don’t make idols out degrees, etc. in the process. I’ve given my humble opinion about the subtle dangers of making idols out of degrees and titles and will no longer post in this discussion so people can get back to the original topic.

      God bless everyone on this website as you prepare for and carry out what God has placed on your hearts in regards to ministry!

  57. NFM says

    — Similar to any doctoral degree, and as already mention by previous commentors, there are good and poor D.Min. programs. Once a “professional” degree, it is becoming much more common to find the degree listed behind the names of presidents, deans, and faculty members at faith-based colleges and universities (“college” is a dying nomenclature, “university” is now the preferred identifier in most cases among institutions offering four-year and graduate education). Moreover, most people in the pew or on the street don’t care or know anything about doctoral education… D.Min. versus Ph.D. isn’t on their radar screens.
    — In many ways online education has devalued all doctoral programs… anyone with enough time and dollars can “earn” an accredited (legitimate or bogus accreditation) doctoral degree online; but here again, there are “good” and poor online doctoral programs.
    — Almost no one now in or who as completed an “easy” doctoral program is going to admit to the fact. Besides, what is the standard for “hard” and “easy?” Number of required academic units isn’t always the best standard. In addition, what constitutes an “academic unit” or “class hour” is under assault.
    — Unfortunately, today many doctoral programs are primarily geared toward increasing institutional revenue and/or prestige– note the increase in offering professional doctoral degrees by private faith-based universities as well as master’s-level state universities (e.g., California State University System).
    — The Ed.D. has degenerated into becoming a D.Min. equivalent in terms of poliferation and widely varying quality. Most Ed.D.s or Ph.D.s in educational fields are among the easiest doctorates to earn/complete.
    — In general, many graduate and undergraduate programs, especially online and adult degree completion programs, are merely consumer products offered by both non-profit and for-profit schools– packaged, marketed, and sold to eager consumers wanting to acquire cost-effective (low cost with minimal academic requirements) degrees.
    — Regional accreditation used to be the gold standard, but not so much any more (specialized or professional accreditation retains greater merit, but usually requires regional accredition as a prerequsite). Unless an educational institution commits out-and-out academic or finanical fraud their chances of acquiring and retaining legitimate accredition (yes, there are illegitimate accrediting agencies) is pretty much assured, if the insitituion is willing to invest the time and effort. Accreditation is granted based on meeting minimal standards.
    — So, what to do? If you feel God’s leading to earn a D.Min. then pursuit the degree with integrity…. enough said.

    I’m not cynical, just realistic. I’ve participated on all sides of the issue. My experience includes 30+ years in graduate higher education (traditional and online), possessing theological education plus two earned doctoral degrees from well-known state universities (Indiana U and Oregon State), supervising many doctoral students (Ph.D., Ed.D., Psy.D., D.Min. and strangely enough, even one DMA), and serving as an academic administrator at the highest levels. I’m thinking about starting my own online university and offering doctoral programs. Why not, it’s a growth industry and given the decline in my retirement portfolio due to stock market fluctuations, it seems like a profitable alternative. Did you hear that? I think my dear mother just rolled over in her grave.

  58. Aaron says

    People won’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.

    I’ve been in full time ministry for seven years. God called me from secular work to the field of ministry without any type of theological degree. God has opened doors and has created successful ministries through His spirit and through a person (myself) who is willing to say, “Lord, I will do whatever you ask of me”. When Jesus spoke to Peter on the shore that day he asked Peter this… “Peter do you love me….”, response, “Yes, I love you”, Jesus shared, “Then feed my sheep”.

    Love. Go. Is there anything else that is truly required? If so, please show it to me?

    On judgment day will God look at those differently with a D.Min. than one (a pastor without a D.Min or any level of degree) who went, loved the people, and shared the word?

    So, all this talk is a waste of time. It means nothing, except to you.

    Final thought, are you achieving a D.Min. for your gain or for the gain of the Kingdom? The Pharisees were “really smart and educated” people and we all know how Jesus felt about them.

    Good luck and may you do as God calls you to do.


  59. Lee says

    I have spent the past hour reading all of the post written. Interestingly enough it seems that there were several different but interrelated conversations about the professional clergy preference for education and vocation requirements.

    It would seem that a starting point of what kind of educational requirement is needed for a specific professional clergy vocation would depend upon the academic and/or religious institution which an individual anticipates serving? Also, your denominational affliliations play an influential factor of how you are ranked or positioned for consideration. This is especially true for academic and religious institutions that are governed by their denominational officials, unlike their secular institutions and organizations.

    Realistically, I believe that those who respond to their calling into professional vocation ministry do so from a point of reference from which they have been informed and the available choices thay have to pursue their education. I am convinced that most if not all individuals entering ministry have discovered that politics, networks, and prejustice exist in the institutions of academia and church beyond what was preceived by the one’s intelligence, innocence, or ignorance about ministry and religion.

    Thus, jealousy, envy, and strife are very real factors among individuals who are preparing to be servant learners/leaders in ministry, whether in academia, church, denominational, or non-profit institutions/organizations. Not to mention how individual and systemic prejustices view and practice race, gender, age, sex discrimination towards those who seek employment and opportunity into academic and church institutions.

    Until professional vocational clergy decide to respect other colleagues who children of God, then there will always be division among us. There should be a place in the university and seminary for both those who have earned a Ph. D. and D. Min. in their fields of discipline, experience and abilities to teach and mentor students.

    Once you are able to verify the regional and ATS accreditation of the academic instituions that an individual has graduated from them you should accept their degree work. As it has been correctly pointed out, that those who pursue the D. Min. track require more coursework (90 semester hours) and practical experience (3 years of ministry practice after receiving M. Div) before applying and entering the program.

    Therefore, one who has a D. Min. will be typically older than the person who has a Ph. D. if they entered and pursued their undergraduate work at the same time. Also, the D. Min. does typically accomodated the married individual better who currently serves in a church institution and does not live near an academic institution to pursue a Ph. D. while doing ministry and financially supporting their families. It is noteworthy to acknowledge that many if not most individuals pursue the M. Div./D. Min. track as a second career compared to their MA/Ph. D. collegues which means they bring a greater depth of life experience as a professional clergy.

    It is equally important of those who are to be stewards of developing disciples for ministry is that they be found faithful and have testimony and lifestyle that is congruient in being a christian teacher and minister in both academic and church instituions.

    However, the counter point is that the ability to make money determines the value/respect of the individual among society and community. The marketing of undergraduate and graduate degrees promotes the empowerment of an individual to make more money compared to those who have less or no degree.

    Today, most who have graduated will earn more money than their Ph. D. and D. Min. clergy professors/pastors who have taught and shepherd them. A similiar devaluing exist from our american society towards childcare providers and public school teachers.

    So the question of motive about those professional clergy who have earned a Ph. D. or D. Min. with the hope broadening their ministry skills, ministry opportunities, ministry value and ministry compensation does not seem any less of the american dream and way of how things are done.

    After 12 years of academic eduaction, 21 years of being ordained, serving as pastor, army chaplain, college and seminary professor has been a rewarding career as a professional clergy. It has been a faith journey through the Word of God and a dependency upon the ministry and work of the Holy Spirit.

    I have learned that there is not just one way or approach that God may call you and have you to fulfill your ministry as a professional clergy. It does matter who knows, likes, and is willing to give you an opportunity to serve. You can have several graduated and terminal degrees but there are no guarantees that you will serve where you desire. It will be likely that you will meet others who may have less creditials, abilities or giftedness than you in positions you have persued.

    May I strive to encourage us all as professional clergy is to love, respect and help each other and watch our frustrations decrease and our success increase!

    Blessings Unto You,


  60. Dave C. says

    I tried to get into the County Fair with my student ID at the Student rate while working on the D. Min. They would not let me in on the student rate and called the Sheriff on me who had attack dogs, unless I paid full cost for the County Fair. The D. Min. program was not considered a “Student” rate the County Fair.

  61. John B says

    In certain circle saying the word ” the good old days” is a taboo, yet one may not dismiss the good old days with a wave of hand as if nothing good happened in the days of old. I could remember vividly my old man who only had high school diploma, writing readable and perhaps publishable letters without any errors or need for correction. Today, a paper work from some Bachelor degree holders is lamentable or a ” fluff degree”. The age of internet had made some of our scholars very lazy and uninteresting. Reseach are no long reseach since most of our reseach works are slight modification of what had been done previously by someone else. Gone are the days of people like,C.S .Lewis, John macarthur, John Wesley, Martin Luther, Augustin Aquino, and many of the old men of the days , who may not pocess PHD or Dmin, yet their work set them apart from many of our so called PHD ‘s or Dmin we have today- Rather than fight over whose degree is more prestigious let us have a discussion on how we can re-invent the good old days people like William Shakespear etc in ourselves, then, we would not care about the degrees but what one is capable of doing- Is this possible in this ” show me your degree” world ?. Well time will tell.

  62. Will S says

    The DMIN is a great advance to degree to get because it is a practical degree. I thank my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ for the opportunity to achieve this. It is my prayer that God uses it in the ministry to bring people in a relationship with Him. I am a Army Chaplain and I hope to be done with my DMIN by next April. God Bless You All!!!!!

    • Mike says

      I’m also a chaplain, but in the Navy. I’ve recently applied to Gordon-Conwell’s DMin in professional counseling. I’ve wrestled with the very issue this blog has addressed for a long time. I love to read and have a soft spot for theology and church history, but I’m in the 3.3 GPA range so I’m not real competitive for even the least competitive PhDs. That being said, my calling is to serve God’s people as a military chaplain. Like every other chaplain I do a lot of counseling. The DMin is going to assist me greatly in my calling. The accolades of a being called “doctor” have absolutely no appeal to me, especially since I hold many titles but really only use one; Chaplain (Chaps to the men). GC’s program is unique in that it will qualify me for state licensure, should I desire to go that route after the military, which will give me something to show for my continuing ed beyond just another degree to hang on my wall.

      Honestly, I think anyone who is caught up in this whole debate over which “Doctorate” is a real Doctorate and which one is fake are really caught up in pride. Not all PhD’s are equal either. Holders of the PhD in the hard sciences look pretty far down their nose at those who hold a PhD in the humanities, regardless of however much academic hazing you endured to earn it. A person who has earned a PhD from Princeton will look his nose down at the one who earned it from Liberty, even if Jerry’s kid worked harder.

      So, who are you serving with your education? If you are serving yourself and living to impress Harvard and be invited to contribute an essay to a book edited by Bart Ehrman, then by all means continue on. Whatever route you choose, use your degree, calling, position to serve God’s people.

    • Will S says

      Thanks Mike for your comment and service to our nation. Like you my GPA was not extremely high in seminary either. I graduated with a 3.1 GPA and most PHD programs require you to have a 3.25 or higher. You hit the nail on the head as pride may be an issue on here. I would hope that everyone on here is using their PHD or DMIN to honor God and bring people into a relationshp with Jesus Christ. Take care brother and God Bless!!!!!

  63. Jim Olson says

    I’m just about to defend my D.Min dissertation at Boston University School of Theology, and I can assure you it is *not* a fluff degree. I’m under the old requirements (I’ve been at this a long time) and I had language and comprehensive examination requirements. And classwork, and a 50,000 word dissertation that, while not as research-intensive as a Th.D paper, did require that I do a great deal of first-hand primary research, much more than the Th.D. generally requires. If I manage to get my paper past my committee (no lightweights) I will have accomplished something. I did this for my own education and improvement, and for no other reason. I do not want to teach full-time, but do think I would enjoy being an adjunct professor. Fortunately, I will soon be living in a major city with a number of excellent seminaries.

  64. TJ says

    I think that the irony in the article is that it is presuming that the DMIN pastor is only doing it for the prestige. However, did it ever cross the author’s mind that that is the exact reason that people get a Ph.D? Having been to seminary I met guys that were just going straight through with their education so that the could have their Ph.D and become a teacher. Which I believe is some what laughable. In some instances, these were guys with no practical experience. So we are supposed to believe they are no searching for prestige, and we are to follow their leadership, when they have no practical knowledge? Although that may sound like an ax that I am grinding, I assure you that it is now. All I am saying is that the same standard that is being placed on the DMIN should be placed on the Ph.D. In other words, let’s not dumb down the DMIN, as a prestige grab for people, and not consider the Ph.D in the same light.

  65. Sam-u-el' says

    Yes, absolutely a fluff degree as with all religious degree’s. When you take one book and spread it across 8 years study and thousands of dollars I’d call that a scam. D.Min is just a Doctorate in Tithing Extortion. Good luck! You are all a bunch of con artists.

    • says

      Strangely, I don’t recall a single class in Tithing Extortion. And I can show you the receipts for the books I had to buy and the time logged in the library reading in my particular discipline. If all degrees are fluff degrees, why are you even reading this thread?

    • Pastor Christian says

      You don’t Jim?

      I remember mine, it was right before “How to convince people that 66 separate writings developed over fifteen hundred years should be considered one book,” and after the “How to be stupid enough to fall for a scam yet smart enough to run an extortion scam on hundreds of others, while duping the IRS, CPA, and State Tax Board.

      It was a great class.

  66. says

    Sarah, I salute you. After 24 years of working at getting a doctorate I finally earned mine. You may call it fluff, but to those who call it that you may do so after you have walked a mile in my shoes. I look at myself as a learner of life and am very proud and humbled to cary the DMIN. Fluff? what school are you graduating from? I had to serve as a missionary for part of my credits and I wonder if you could have managed better than I did. So much for that, Sarah we do what we do because we love the Lord. Shame on those who call DMIN fluff!

  67. Mike N says

    I just finished my D.Min. in Preaching from AI this last December. It was good work and quite a bit and I learned a great deal. I rarely use initials after my name (this was my 7th degree); I’m most interested in the “new learning” as AI calls it that I benefit from in a program. I’ve also found I go deeper into something when I’m in a structured study plan than if I simply read on my own.

  68. James says

    I am a pastor with an MDiv from a very well respected seminary. I hope to go back to seminary sometime in the near future for a DMin. While this debate over PhD vs DMin is an interesting one, I have another take on this question.

    Of all the churches I have served in, I have yet to find a church that was happy with their PhD pastor. With each church that I have encountered where the previous pastor had a PhD, the overwhelming consensus is that he was reclusive, arrogant, carried the title of “Doctor” on his shoulder like a rank insignia, not a leader, never visited, only preached and wasn’t very pastoral at all, among other complaints. I am presently at a church where the previous pastor with a PhD nearly killed the church because he was so academic he was oblivious to the needs of the people. Now, I have to come in and clean up his mess of a divided and declining church. Thank you very much!

    Pastors with DMins, in my experience, do a far better job of leading, shepherding, and teaching their congregations. Granted, I am not saying that my opinion is entirely true in every case. But overall, pastors with Doctor of Ministry degrees tend to be better equipped and qualified for leading and serving in the church than those with a PhD because there is a deeper sense of grace and humility in them. PhDs with these character traits tend to be seminary professors who know their calling is to the classroom and walk with God accordingly.

    I plan to earn a DMin in preaching, simply because it is my weakest area of ministry and I need to improve this skill. God’s call on my life is to be a shepherd after God’s own heart who feeds His people on knowledge and understanding (Jer. 3:15). I think a DMin will be helpful for me in my pursuit of this call, not only academically, but in matters of integrity as well.

    • Pastor Christian says


      I know of a number of churches that are. I think it is not a good idea to sweep with a broad brush or utilize anecdotal information. On top of that, I would hope that you’d remember that you’re only getting one side of the story. Church members, like all of us, have a way of absolving the church from any responsibility in conflict. The result, often, is that a former pastor becomes a caricature in their minds. I will state in fairness, that pastors who struggle do the same thing with churches and church members.

      My point however, is that you can’t lump in “Pastors with Ph.D.’s.”

      As far as doing a doctorate in preaching is concerned, I think that’s great. I would only ask you whether you would want to utilize your preaching gift only to preach, or if you think there’s a possibility you’d want to train others in preaching as well. If the latter is true, then you might want to look at a Ph.D., so you dig deeper and further into the theory.

      Either way, God bless and I hope you enjoy your doctoral program.

  69. Mike says

    I can’t believe how many years this thread has been active. I’m about to start a DMin in professional counseling at Gordon-Conwell. Are there any current or former students here that wouldn’t mind sharing about their experiences.?

  70. Tyrome Garrison says

    This discussion is enlighting for me as a PhD student. I perceive a lot of passion, pain and some agnst. I salute all of you who have aspired for the tools of effectiveness in higher learning.

    I found many of the insights for my rigrious course of study can be used to help those need my (and your) skills and giftings without the cost we’ve incurred. I am glad for your examples and I honor what our Lord has done (and is doing in your lives). I only add- be faithful to the calling wherein you have been called-Maranatha!

    Tyrome Garrison
    Walden University
    PhD Student-Organizational Psychology

  71. Kyle Walker says

    Yeah, I’ve got a DeMin (how my college students like to say it). You don’t do a D.Min., for a title or for a raise. In fact, that doesn’t happen at all. You do it to focus study. Like many others, I got my M.Div. and really had no idea what being a pastor was really like. Having a few years under my belt, a D.Min. was a great way to do some focused study. As others have said, there are fluff programs and non-fluff programs. Based on what you said, I would have to guess Princeton has a fluff program going.

    But, remember, people can get ordained online in 5 minutes. Ordination is not the same everywhere. Neither is higher education.

  72. Johnny says

    Interesting comments…I’m hoping to begin DMin studies at either Westminster or Asbury next year…not for prestige or a raise, but as a means to pursuing God’s purposes for me :-)

  73. says

    part of the issue with the D.min is that it regulates it’s worth by its entry requirements – or is supposed to. The reason it is supposed to be an easier doctorate degree, besides the fact that it is a vocational doctorate, which are always easier than PhD’s, is that it is supposed be backed by a Masters degree that is approximately twice as large as other masters degrees. When I was taking an M div at Trinity, the degree was 91 hours while a PhD at Loyola in philosophy was 60 hours passed an undergraduate degree, And I took classes that were for PhD students.
    It is definitely true that it is a prestigious jump and in earning jump for most people – especially if you are in a mainline denomination. But there is also a considerable amount of learning that takes place. Three “light” education years are still three years. With the proliferation of Dr. degrees in numerous fields, and with the general sense among clergy that they are professionals, the degree doesn’t seem out of proportion to other field’s requirements for vocational doctorates.
    I’m probably not getting one, if that tells you anything about what I think.

  74. val says

    Hub has a D.Min from a serious theological seminary~not fluff, no raise. That’s not why “we” did it. Called by God to worship & serve. I do find that ordained clergy does not garner the respect of the general public as it once did. Same as my profession (educator). Hub has been faithful & obedient to answer the call. I wish church members had a clue of all that is involved to become a pastor. Too many Clergy Killers out there who think the pastor is their little employee & they can tell the pastor better how to do the job. Sad

    • Kyle Walker says

      This notion that a “real PhD” is the benchmark is problemmatic. There have always been a diversity of doctoral level degrees. The PhD, while preferred for teaching, is not the only degree. M.D. and J.D. are other kinds of doctorates. Because religion is not readily quantifiable, I would make an argument that PhD is inappropriate in approach for a pastor who seeks higher level work. The PhD is typically (although not exclusively, especially in the social sciences) a quantitative research field. The D.Min. is qualitative and usually involves case study work more than anything else. Certainly these degrees do not go into the kind of quantitative analysis and statistics that a PhD would do but as qualitative research enters a time of higher respect even in PhD work, it is probably the wrong time to stop considering the rightful place of a D.Min. in our course of study as pastors. I do think that standards need to be set across institutions but this isn’t a fallacy of the degree concept itself. Rather it is a probably of those accreditation groups that seek to create standards.

  75. says

    If you’re working and trying to feed and care for a family, it’s hard to say any degree is “fluff” unless the requirements are extremely weak (e.g. diploma mill type). It does seem that the average PhD is more academically rigorous within the degree itself, but the DMin requires more background and experience that you can’t always quantify. I did enjoy reading these comments and have learned much from them. I too was impressed by how long this thread has been going and how long it was. Can I get a degree for reading it all?

  76. Mike says

    I’m in the middle of the pre-preadings for the first of 8 two week seminars from Gordon-Conwell. It’s in professional counseling. Believe me, it’s not fluff.

  77. Rev. Dr. David Coffin [DM] says

    My church’s basement flooded yesterday. I have been on the phone with adjusters, clean-up people, and trying to gather a community of faith to clean-up [after they have done their 8-10 hour day jobs]. Had I gotten a ThD. or PhD, instead of a D. Min., would I have been more prepared to handle the flooding at our church?

  78. hof says

    I think it depends on where you do your Doctorate. As a result of the way higher education is regulated in the United Kingdom a Dmin and Phd have to be the same standard, however I believe in the US the Dmin is subordinate to a Phd

  79. says

    You can get an ordination as a pastor for FREE from

    Plus, you can get a Th.D, Ph.D for no more that £20 – £30 just by submitting your thesis. Its perfectly legitimate and Biblically sound.

    Why waste years in an institution when today is the day of salvation? Your belief in God and the truth in Jesus is what counts. The world is concerend with worldly documentation.

    Their seminary Bishop states the following:

    You are a soldier of the Lord, and you will need a solid support staff to aid you as you go out into the world and spread the gospel. We feel led to provide that support. As an earthly base of operation for your ministry, you will be able to feed your spirit through the use of our library, forums and chat room. When worldly documentation of your spiritual calling is needed, we have that as well. Your ordination and educational degrees from Missionary Chapel and Seminary will open many doors of opportunity for you. Thank you for allowing us the blessing to serve you.

    Go with God,

    Bishop Dr. David Logan

    I hope this is of benefit to you.

    Pastor Yakov Israel Th.D

    • says

      These diploma mills are offensive. I worked my ass off for nearly nine years part time while working in a church full time to earn my D.Min. They are the reason that many people do not give us credit for earning serious degrees.

      • pastorchristian says

        I agree, though I do have a question for you, James. How did you work your rear-end off? My seemed to just get bigger.

      • Pastor Joe White says

        I thought slavery came to an end?

        Its not as if you were forced into working 2 jobs. You actually chose working in a church while studying for the promise of a better lifestyle with greater social status among your peers “Oh Im studying doing this that and the other… look at me, look how great I am”.

        You could have chosen to work nine years or spend $30 for the same degree, but the social status attached with “studying” and “working in the church” were more desirable and so worth the money and time doing so. None of this crap about serving God comes into it.

  80. Audrey says

    The person who said the DMin is a joke does not know what he or she is speaking of. First, you have to have M.Div, which is 3 years to complete and the D.Min is 3 years to complete. I am writing a 500 page dissertation, which is not a joke. I bet you a dime to a donut, they could write it because if they could, they never would have made that ignorant comment, Be blessed in the Lord.

    • Mary Michelle Huneycutt says

      Question: I have been seeing 75-90 hours for a MDiv, yet mine was 120 hours. So it is clearnot all degrees are alike.

  81. Alf K N says

    Interesting read from all perspectives. I came across these boards as our university is in discussions of tenure and requirements. Let me say that we are a private research university and though we have D.Mins on staff, we do not have any on faculty. Moreover, someone without a PhD would never gain any tenure and would stand as lecturer, not professor at best. I know these are just titles but in the academic world, it means more than just a title, it means the entitlement of benefits and job security as well as preference in choice of subjects one undertakes.
    With regards to the comments about duration of learned hours prior to entry, most of our faculty have master degrees and some have multiple masters, including MDivs. I myself has my MDiv from YDS and my PhD from Oxford. (I am a full professor at Duke)
    That being said, I believe the two doctoral degrees are very distinct and different in function. For one, a higher GPA is required at point of entry for PhD studies. The second being that any faculty is required/encouraged to continue publishing. The degree may be terminal, the learning isn’t. If one does not enjoy the research aspect, there is really no reason to embark on this route.
    DMin on the other hand (as stated many times) is a professional degree and serves a entirely different function; both of which epitome can give glory to God.
    All this is not to say that the DMin is “fluff” but very different and I for one cannot and will not compare the two.

  82. Georg Karl says

    My D.Min. required a Professional Project that tested a theory in a professional practice. D.Min students (cohorts) often go ABD, and do not receive the doctorate without a successful defense of the dissertation-like project. Dissertations differ from Professional projects by the scope of application; the PhD researches for the field of study and the D.Min researches and experiments for a particular venue of practice. The D.Min project can focus on one venue, namely the the candidates own professional setting. A Ph.D. research project must apply to the entire field of work, and therefore loses its pragmatism, unless an application is achieved because of the research. It is that pragmatic value that the D.Min project prizes, and thus is truly a practitioner’s or professional degree. The D.Min requires about 120 hours of graduate and post graduate academic work plus a final project. (An M.Div. is a prerequisite, and it is a 83 – 90 credit hour graduate degree.)

    My D.Min Professional Project was 246 pages long (meeting dissertation standards of form, style, and citations), in 14 chapters, with 129 pages of Appendixes. There were 168 entries in the Bibliography and 710 footnotes.

    There is a non-accredited doctorate that is often confused with the D.Min, and it is called “Doctor of the Church.” There may be others. The D.Min is carefully scrutinized by a regulating body and has the highest level of accreditation, even though it is not at the academic level of a Ph.D.

    I am called Rev. Dr. in formal settings, Dr. by many in my community and congregation (as well as Reverend or Pastor), but am just as glad to be called by my first name.

    The D.Min is no fluff. There are doctorates, as I mentioned earlier, that require only an informal thesis that are simply e-mailed to the department and there is no substantial defense. Don’t confuse that to the rigor of a well administrated D. Min program, such as one at the Anderson School of Theology.

    Georg Karl

  83. says

    I am curious about how the perceived value of a D.Min might change when added to college teaching experience and/or a reputable source (e.g., Duke Divinity or Asbury Theological). I already earned an MA (English) and an M.Div, so I plan on D.Min instead. With two graduate degrees, I’m not sure I have enough money or energy for a 5-7 year Ph.D program.

    I do not expect to teach at some lofty school, but with college teaching experience, it would be nice to keep that door open for bi-vocational or Bible college work.

    Related to that, how might a D.Min be more researched-focused or more geared for teaching?

  84. Scott Collins says

    The Doctor of Ministry is a professional degree more than an academic one. A good comparison would be a Master of Divinity as opposed to a Master of Theology. However, I think it is a mistake to look down on a “professional degree.” It is about sharpening one’s skills and knowledge in a vocation and not necessarily to beef up one’s academic credentials. Even my wife said I should pursue a Doctor of Ministry over an “academic” doctorate for that very reason. In short, those who put down the Doctor of Ministry as a valuable degree are “all wet.”

    • says

      Yes, this is a good perspective. M.D. is another professional as opposed to academic degree. Doctor of Jurisprudence is another. D.V.M. The list goes on and on. Also remember that D.Min. degrees have to meet certain requirements for accreditation of seminaries and divinity schools. It isn’t just “whatever they want to do”. Princeton started this conversation many years ago by turning up their nose at the D.Min. and then offering something they called the D.Min.(Prin.) Then they scuttled the whole D.Min. program at their school. Quite a statement they made in doing so about qualitative research and practical theology! Telling someone with a D.Min. they have a fluff degree is like telling someone who is trying to perfect their tennis game they aren’t athletic just because they aren’t in a bodybuilding competition. These kinds of questions say a whole lot more about those asking than those requested to answer.

    • Georg Karl says

      The Master of Divinity degree, when I completed it, was a l90 credit our masters program that included all of the academic courses of a master of theology plus the classes about practical aspects of ministry. That’s why it took 90 credit hours. I don’t think that the Master Divinity degree can be devalued, with any kind of justification, because it is a professional degree that is not a gateway to a doctor of philosophy. It is truly a degree that includes academic rigor. It is therefore a justifiable prerequisite to the doctor of ministry, which offered by a good school, is academically rigorous as many other doctorates. It’s aim is practice which distinguishes it from those degrees with a research aim.

  85. Mark says

    Since when was the ordained ministry about the money? If the Dmin will give me advanced skills in how to better serve the local parish then it is worth it. I can take all sorts of continuing education courses and get nothing out of it beyond the knowledge. If I am going to take continuing ed courses then why not use them and work towards another degree?

  86. Dustin says

    From what I have noticed, the original post was made in September of 2007. The last post was a reply in June of 2014. That’s almost seven years. If the person was seriously considering getting a D.Min., then I think he just might have it right now.

    I finished college in 2008, started seminary that same year, got two seminary degrees by 2012, completed another graduate in 2013, completed one unit of Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) in 2014, and now going for a CPE residency that will last until August of 2015 and apparently this post is going on.

    So, I’ll add to the fray. Is the D.Min. a “fluff” degree? It depends. If it is from Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary, then yes it is. That school is only regionally accredited and not accredited by the ATS. With that being said, if you got your M.Div. from that school because you did not know that there was a difference in accrediting agencies, then you should go get a D.Min. from an ATS accredited school. If, and only if, it will prove beneficial to your learning. At Liberty, the seminary professors are actually good; however, the school officials themselves have a tendency to care more about enrollment and getting more students.

    Denver Seminary in Colorado has a D.Min. degree that is excellent–D.Min. Marriage and Family Therapy. It is different from many D.Min. degrees out there and, in many cases, can one for licensure as a marriage and family therapist. Of course, that is just one option.

    Also, the politics of a denomination can play into the choice to go beyond the M.Div. When I started my arduous path to the ministry, I was United Methodist. I was given such a hard time, but I felt called to be a chaplain. There were Methodist ministers that told me to leave; it wasn’t that they thought I shouldn’t be Methodist, but rather that the steps were ridiculous for ministers that just wanted to fulfill their calling to be chaplains. There was a great deal of politics. One Methodist minister told me about a fellow minister that completed his D.Min,, and then was punished by being taken out of his charge and placed into a charge with two churches. If one is in the North Carolina Conference, like I was, then one was pushed into going to Duke Divinity School. I eventually took the advice of fellow pastors and left after almost two years.

    I began Southern Baptist, in hind sight not the best choice. I was in my last semester of college and finishing up the requirements to graduate, so I quickly had to find some place to go. The Methodist ministers that told me to leave said that Southern Baptists were more supportive of people trying to go into the chaplaincy. I contacted a pastor that was a friend of my great-grandfather and went to his church. It was a small country church and the pastor was uneducated, but these people were going to help me–I was incredibly grateful. They treated me very well and I was humbled. In this denomination, I decided to not rock the boat. I was told to go to Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary, not my first choice, but I did. Hence, I know how Liberty operates. Jokes are made about the education, but I’ve had professors from Southern Baptist seminaries, from seminaries of other denominations, the University of Wisconsin at Madison, etc. and the courses were far from easy. The joke comes in on how to school is run.

    I sought ordination from the church that supported me in my chaplaincy endeavor. However, I got a harsh awakening with politics in Southern Baptist churches, both big and small. I am indelibly Southern. I have a Southern accent. My yankee mother-in-law thinks I’m a hick, because she doesn’t know much about Southerners. However, in the area in which I grew up, I am considered quite haute. While I do have a Southern accent, I sound like a highly educated Southerner. My accent comes from directly from the aristocratic Tidewater accent; the only difference is the highly rhotic quality of my North Carolina Piedmont accent and lack of “oa” diphthong sound in words like house. I always make the “o” sound and never make the “oy” sound in words like oil, foil, soil, toil, broil, embroil, boil, join, point, appointment, moisture, ointment, etc. I know which wine goes with fish or pork. I go to the opera. I wear suits. All of that, combined with the fact that I went to an elitist school, the University of North Carolina, put me at odds with the uneducated pastor. I came to find out that he saw me as a threat to his ministry. He said I needed to humble myself and told me to become a school teacher. I was not to be back for ordination by this pastor.

    From my studies, I realized that I was not Southern Baptist and I had a hard time adhering to the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message. My attempt to not rock the boat backfired; when one goes to Liberty one has a tendency to be trapped in a denomination. I joined the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, but when I tried to get endorsed to be a chaplain I got the third degree. Things were said about my education and what it should have been. When I was told about appropriate seminary courses that should have been taken, I realized that I had taken them. However, it all boiled down to the fact I was educated by fundamentalists–apparently, the CBF is still scared of anybody that might have any ties to them. However, I was told that if I went to McAfee School of Theology at Emory University of George W. Truett Theological Seminary at Baylor University, then I would be waived on through and be endorsed.

    The D.Min. with me would be purely a political decision. I don’t like it. I like to D.Min. at Denver, because of the Marriage and Family Therapy major. I would love to get that in order to help people, but that may hurt me. Essentially, it breaks down like this: If I went to the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, then it is possible that I could be fine with the CBF and most definitely fine with the SBC; if Liberty, then not fine with CBF and fine with SBC; if McAfee, then fine CBF and not fine with SBC; if Baylor, then fine with CBF and possibly fine with SBC. Of course, that is all talking about endorsement for the chaplaincy, but I will not remain in the chaplaincy forever and may wish to enter the pastorate. In that case, McAfee School of Theology will probably hurt me, except for liberal congregations and some moderate CBF churches; Baylor would hurt me with many Southern Baptist churches, less so in Texas, but it would be fine with many CBF churches; Liberty hurts me all around, because the high, Charleston Baptist-type of churches don’t like Liberty degrees and I would be stuck with smaller, less-informed churches; and Southern would be fine with those high-Charleston type churches, small churches, and possibly some CBF churches.

    • Jeff A.A. says

      Are you kidding me? You are obsessing way too much! The only one really impacted by your obsessing is you! Breathe! There are so many great schools out there. And you go for the degree that’s going to do what you need it to. I have four earned master’s, on in ministry and one in theology. None of the DMin programs I went to cared that one was from Simpson and the other from Fuller. I opted to go on and do an EdD. in educational psychology because I work as a therapist and educator, in addition to ministry. There are plenty of bad PhD’s out there too. And there are plenty of good ones. As for denominations, just find one that will endorse you for chaplaincy. That the Methodists and Southern Baptists would not, seem weird to me. I’ve ministered freely in both denominations and never experienced what have. It makes me wonder if you might not want to go to a good counselor who works in education and career as well, and work through possibilities for how you might be negatively impacting your own situation. God’s best.

  87. Dave says

    I hold a ThD and never seriously considered a DMin because even though I am a pastor, the ThD speaks to those outside the religious academy. I currently teach at a liberal arts university. It was never a passion of mine to further self-equip for what I perceived as Christian culture pastoral ministry.

  88. chad says

    If you are interested in doing in the field research that analyzes ministry outcomes, aim for a DMin. If you want more in depth book research, aim for a PhD. A DMin requires more Masters level credits to begin but a PhD is usually requires more hours to complete (DMin 3-4 years, PhD 4-5 years). An accredited DMin from an ATS school is certainly not fluff. It requires tens of thousands of pages of reading, hundreds and potentially over a thousand written pages. Not to mention the planning and execution of a ministry project that takes at least a year to complete. I completed a DMin and am beginning a PhD. Since I am more of a book worm, I prefer the PhD. Both are academically rigorous. A PhD in a theological field will also require research languages (usually German or French) that are not required for a DMin. Unless you are a military chaplain or part of a particular denomination that pays for education, there are no raises for a doctorate. Most pastors I know with a doctorate do not use the title. That is not why they recieved the degree.

  89. Bob says

    I earned the DMin in Marital & Family Counseling from FTS in the mid-70’s. The program was full-time in residence. Core requirements were: Marriage and Family Counseling; Tests and Measurements; Individual and Family Counseling; Group Counseling; Research in Theology and Psychotherapy; Dissertation. In addition there were Integration Sequences: Sequence 1: Family Life Education and Research; Marriage and Family Problems and Adjustments. Sequence 11: Child Development and Counseling; Adolescent Development and Counseling; Adult Development and Counseling. Sequence 111; Marital Interaction; Parent-child Counseling; Use of Tests and Measurements in Counseling; plus 4 quarters practicum, which was considered equivalent to ” internship” in other similar programs. This meant that in addition to experiences with clients in counseling sessions, there were also assigned readings, lectures, case history write- ups, occasional tests or their equivalent, reading reports of a written nature, etc., with reports submitted to the director of the program regularly. There was also a requirement, in addition to the Core requirements, to take one biblical seminar and one theology seminar. The program was geared toward licensure as a Marital and Family Therapist. There was also opportunity to take courses in the seminary’s School of Psychology, so a student had access to graduate courses such as: Psychology of Learning, Psychological Assessment, Statistics, Psychopathology, Abnormal Psychology. At the time I obtained the DMin the program was full-time, and because of the heavy clinical work required for licensure, it was not possible to complete the requirements for the marriage and family counseling specialty in the Doctor of Ministry full-time in one academic year. FTS, in California, is a world-wide highly respected graduate school.

    A “fluff” degree? I think not!

    Years later, I studied for and received a PhD from another institution, in Clinical Counseling. The same amount of work was needed that the DMin required.

    I do though recognize that the DMin format has changed, although there are still a few institutions that require full-time in residence study. However, I know of several who have completed DMin studies under the current format, for most seminaries/divinity schools, and know what was required of them, and they certainly didn’t have “a walk in the park.”

  90. says

    I attended a state university because I was hungry to learn and not so much to become a better churchman/pastor. My PhD in theology was a reward but not so much the goal. I am generally skeptical about the DMin degrees many of my colleagues hold because the seminary world can be insular.

    I apologize for how this may come across but I never see my pastoral counterparts attending the seminars at our nearby universities that I feel could benefit them. For that reason, I cannot feature them having conversations in academia, if only due to the jargon they don’t even hear.

  91. Ravenwood says

    I did by D.Min. dissertation on integrating Christian spirituality, consciousness and quantum physics. I had a Masters in Electrical Engineering (concentration in electro-optics) and an M.Div. For my dissertation/project, I designed a course of instruction for churches which combined Trinitarian thought with the quantum process of Consciousness taking potentiality into actuality. The people I taught loved it and understood it despite the extremely arcane nature of the topic. The D.Min. is what you make it to be. I wonder how many theological students at either Princeton or Harvard could really claim to have the spiritual depth my students gained at the end of the instructional period I gave them. For too long science and theology have been viewed as natural opponents. This is simply no longer the case.

  92. says

    Im into my 10th years in ministry, and my theological position has changed from Charismatic Anglican to Anglo-Cathilic.

    If I want just another degree to entitled me to be called Dr so and so, I would not have to drive for 20 hours to Nashotah House all the way from Toronto. There are many cheaper options a stone throw away.

    What we am looking for is a seminar that holds the Anglo-Cathilic view, and yer fully committed in mission, which leads me to read DMin in the House.

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