Seminary Professor

Seminary professors are entrusted with the responsibility to equip the next generation of ministers, pastors, priests, nuns and other clergy with the necessary knowledge and tools to embark on a career centered on religion. They often rely on a combination of teaching skills, scholarship and service to carry out their duties. Active within a local church and demonstrating a personal commitment to their faith, seminary professors are expected to serve as role models both inside and outside the classroom.

Job Activities & Responsibilities

Hired primarily at faith-based colleges, seminary professors concentrate on guiding future clergy in theological studies and scholarly interpretation of the Bible. Prospective employers are looking to hire professors demonstrating leadership skills; a solid understanding of the Bible (and other religious texts); and excellent writing skills. Depending on the seminary, professors might be expected to conduct research and become published in academic journals and magazines. Some seminary schools prefer professors to concentrate on their interaction between students, the school and community rather than devote a lot of time to research and getting published.

Professors at a seminary are additionally responsible for the following day-to-day activities:

  • Educating future pastors and ministers on denominational traditions
  • Creating lesson plans, assignments and faith-based curriculum
  • Submitting grades and writing letters of recommendation
  • Supervising Doctor of Ministry students or overseeing the Master’s thesis program


Although the educational qualifications for teaching candidates vary from school to school, the teachers and professors hired at a seminary require a postgraduate degree, such as a Master’s or Ph.D. in Theology or Divinity. Those engaged in advanced studies usually gravitate towards a specialty, such as the psychology of religion, world religions, or the history of Christianity. Overall, the majority of hires possess a doctoral degree. The more advanced the degree, the more teaching opportunities that become available for a job candidate.

Step by Step: How to Become a Seminary Professor

1. Earn a bachelor’s degree. Aspiring professors of religion are expected to earn an undergraduate degree, preferably one that builds an educational background that incorporates coursework in education and theology. Classes that introduce students to the following subjects provide a solid foundation for prospective theology majors: religious philosophy, ethics, Biblical texts (like the Old and New Testaments), scripture, and current religious issues.

2. Qualify for and complete a graduate-level education. A master’s in education with a concentration in theology is an ideal education path for prospective seminary professors to pursue. In order to gain entry into a graduate-level studies program, students must perform well on entrance essays, submit an application, and do well on standardized tests, such as the Graduate Record Exam (GRE). Applicants that earn high scores on the verbal/writing portions of the exam have a better chance of catching the eye of admission’s personnel.

3. Earn a Ph.D. A doctorate degree qualifies a religion teacher for open positions at graduate seminaries, where they prepare individuals that are looking to complete a specialized faith-based degree program, and/or become a religious leader. Seminary teachers are generally required to possess a postgraduate degree (master’s or Ph.D.) in fields such as divinity studies or theology.

4. Gain teaching experience. Graduate students build experience in the field by completing internships and participating in student-teaching experiences. When completing their doctoral studies, it is not uncommon for students to serve as graduate instructors or teaching assistants. Most schools seek to hire applicants who have seminary teaching experience under his or her belt. Pastoral experience in an affiliated church is often a preference held by schools bringing new professors into the fold.

Career Salary, Outlook & Growth

One of the highest-paid professions in ministry is the theology professor, which the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) cites as being paid a median annual salary of $69,590 in 2017.

These educators are hired at seminary colleges and other private religious institutions to guide and teach future clergy and religious leaders. Prospective employers take into account a job applicant’s educational background, professional credentials, and teaching experience to not only determine his or her eligibility for an open position, but to also assess their salary potential. Other factors that affect the salary of a seminary professor include the size of a hiring school, current enrollment figures, and geographic location.

For example, the BLS has identified the following states (with annual mean salaries listed) as the highest-paying locations for philosophy and religion teachers at postsecondary schools:

  • Rhode Island ($102,950)
  • New Hampshire ($93,640)
  • California ($92,600)
  • Utah ($89,560)
  • Massachusetts ($89,120)

Overall, those who have majored in philosophy or religion (and have trained to serve as a teaching professional), will encounter a 10% to 14% increase in open teaching positions for this field, from 2016-2026. This highlights a faster than average anticipated growth for the occupation (when compared to all other jobs in the U.S.). A projected 2,900 teaching positions are expected to open up for religion-education majors during this same time period.