In the academic study of theology, the Master of Divinity (MDiv, magister divinitatis in Latin) is the terminal degree and formerly considered the first professional degree of the pastoral profession in North America. It is the most common academic degree in seminaries and divinity schools (e.g. in 2014 nearly 44 percent of all US students in schools accredited by the Association of Theological Schools were enrolled in an MDiv program). In many Christian denominations and in some other religions, the degree is the standard prerequisite for ordination or licensing to professional ministry. At accredited seminaries in the United States this degree requires between 72 and 106 credit hours of study (72 being the minimum determined by academic accrediting agencies and 106 being on the upper end of certain schools that wish to ensure a broader study of the related disciplines).
Christian MDiv programs generally include studies in Christian ministry and theology. In 1996 the Association of Theological Schools established the standard that all accredited MDiv programs should include the following four content areas: Religious Heritage, Cultural Context, Personal and Spiritual Formation, and Capacity for Ministerial and Public Leadership. Coursework usually includes studies in New Testament Greek, theology, philosophy, church history, pastoral theology, Hebrew Bible (Old Testament), and New Testament studies. The requirements for an MDiv take four years and includes practical experience like most professional terminal degrees.
Many programs also contain courses in church growth, ecclesiology, evangelism, systematic theology, Christian education, liturgical studies, Latin, Hebrew, canon law, and patristics. The degree may or may not include a thesis.
The MDiv is a requirement for ordination in many denominations. For example, the United Methodist Church, one of the largest Protestant Christian denominations in the US, whose students in 2014 made up nine percent of all MDiv students enrolled in schools accredited by the Association of Theological Schools, requires candidates for ordination as elder to earn an MDiv and requires candidates for ordination as deacon to earn either an MDiv or a master's degree in another field with additional theological studies.
The Master of Divinity has replaced the Bachelor of Divinity in most United States seminaries as the first professional degree, since the former title implied in the American academic system that it was on a par with a Bachelor of Arts or other basic undergraduate education even though a bachelor's degree previously was and remains a prerequisite for entrance into graduate divinity programs. The Commission on Accrediting of the Association of Theological Schools in the United States and Canada accredits most Christian schools in North America and approves the degree programs they offer, including the MDiv.
The MDiv is a significantly more extensive program than most taught (as opposed to research-based) master's degrees. In the United States the degree usually consists on average of 90 semester hours, as opposed to the usual 36 or 48. Ordination in most mainline Protestant denominations and the Roman Catholic Church thus requires seven or eight years of education past high school: the first four in undergraduate studies leading to a bachelor's degree (which may or may not be in a related field) and then three or four years of seminary or divinity school education leading to the MDiv.
The MDiv stands in contrast to the Master of Arts (MA) in theology and Master of Theological Studies (MTS), the usual academic degrees in the subject (which tend not to include "pastoral" or "practical" courses), and the Bachelor of Sacred Theology (STB), Licentiate in Sacred Theology (STL), Master of Theology (MTh), Master of Sacred Theology (STM), and Master of Religion (MRel), which are also academic degrees. Schools with Pontifical faculties in North America often award both the MDiv and STB at the same time after a three-year period of graduate studies.
Although in 2014 women made up approximately 53 percent of all students enrolled in ministerial non-MDiv degree programs at US schools accredited by the Association of Theological Schools, they constituted only approximately 29 percent of all MDiv students in the same schools in that year. The group with the most parity in MDiv enrollment numbers between men and women at those schools in that time period were African American students, among whom enrollment numbers were almost equal between genders.
For the 2014-15 academic year the average cost per year for MDiv tuition and fees at a school accredited by the Association of Theological Schools was $14,673.50 in the US and $9,493.25 in Canada.