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Do I need to have a call to be in seminary?

Christians have traditionally believed that people entering ordained ministry should be called by God.  A call can take many forms, though.  For some, it’s a single, life-changing experience like the apostle Paul’s.  Others experience God’s call gradually as a steady nudging that ministry is right for them.  For still others, recognizing God’s call is a difficult process of stops and starts, of experimentation and questioning.  Some come to seminary to test the waters – to see if their sense of calling is confirmed by the experience of living in community, working with faculty who are both pastors and teachers, and focusing on ministry full-time.

Along with the inner call, those preparing for ministry in the Church should also have an outer call:  the affirming voice of the Christian community saying, “We believe you have gifts for ministry.”  While the University of Dubuque Theological Seminary doesn’t require you to have formal candidacy with your sponsoring denomination prior to your acceptance, we are committed to working with your denomination to provide you with the tools you need to prepare you for ministry.

How well will UDTS prepare me for ministry?

Above all, UDTS trains men and women for pastoral ministry.  While most of our M.Div. students become pastors of congregations, many become associate pastors, pastoral counselors, or enter specialized ministries.  Yet even those who enter teaching or other ministries appreciate the broad, scripturally-based foundation of their degree.  Historically, the placement rate for Dubuque graduates seeking positions in pastoral ministry is almost 100%.  Presbyterian students consistently score at or above the national average on the denomination’s standard ordination exams.  In addition, our graduates demonstrate exceptional longevity in pastoral ministry.  No matter what ministry God has in mind for you, The University of Dubuque Theological Seminary can help you get there. 

Why is the University of Dubuque Theological Seminary offering classes online?

The mission of The University of Dubuque Theological Seminary is to prepare faithful pastors.  That’s what we’ve been doing for more than 150 years.  We realize, though, that not everyone who hears God’s call is able to come to Dubuque for three or four years of seminary.  That’s where the technology of the Internet comes in:  by combining online classes with brief residential intensives, we can serve students and congregations from every part of the country.  Because you don’t have to relocate for your studies, you can stay in your current setting. 

Is distance theological education right for me?

We think online learning is a great opportunity for students to equip themselves for ministry without uprooting themselves or their families.  At the same time, though, we realize that taking classes via the Internet isn’t for everyone.  Please contact us to help determine if this could be a viable alternative for you.

What programs are offered online at UDTS?

You can study online with us three different ways:  in our Commissioned Lay Pastor Program, our Distance M.Div. degree, our Distance MAMC degree, or as an unclassified student.  CLP students complete 8 non-credit online classes as part of a program designed to allow Presbyterian laity to serve PC(USA) congregations without an ordained pastor.  These courses are also suitable for any layperson who is interested in theological study.  The M.Div. online is a fully accredited, 4-year seminary degree, while the MAMC Online is a 2 1/2 year degree.  Unclassified students are allowed to take our masters level courses one at a time.  This option is perfect for Presbyterian students at non-Presbyterian seminaries who need to complete denomination-specific courses as part of their ordination requirements, or for potential students who want to try a class or two online to get their feet wet before signing up for a full-time program.  Whatever you’re doing, UDTS has an online format that can fit your needs. 

How does the CLP program work?

The Book of Order of the Presbyterian Church (USA) requires eight basic courses to prepare candidates for commissioning as a lay pastor.  Since 2000, with the help of a generous grant from the Lilly Endowment, UDTS has equipped nearly 1500 students from across the nation.  More than 80 presbyteries have had at least one student in this program, including a cohort of Native American students preparing to serve congregations in their respective contexts.  For more information about the CLP, including a list of courses and the application form, click here.

How do the Distance M.Div. and Distance MAMC programs work?

Building on the knowledge gained through our Commissioned Lay Pastor program, UDTS offered its first master’s-level online courses in 2004.  These positive experiences encouraged us to move forward with our proposal to offer an entire degree program online.  With approval from the Association of Theological Schools (ATS), our accrediting agency, we now offer up to two-thirds of the Master of Divinity degree and up to one-half of the Master of Arts in Missional Christianity degree online.  Through a combination of online courses and residential intensives you’ll be able to complete your degree without the barriers of scheduling or geography.  For more information: M.Div online OR MAMC online

How does the quality of online classes compare to residential classes at UDTS?

We don’t offer two different M.Div. degrees or two different MAMC degrees at the University of Dubuque Theological Seminary.  We offer single degrees in two settings:  residential and contextual.  That means the academic standards we’ve set for our residential students are exactly the same for our online students.  Our faculty teach the same courses with the same curricular goals and the same grading scale in both settings:  the professors you meet during your intensives are the same professors you’ll take classes from online.  We are called to prepare faithful pastors – academic excellence goes hand-in-hand with our mission. 

How much time is required for course work?

The M.Div. or MAMC online programs are master’s level degrees.  As a rule, two to three hours of work outside of class are expected for every hour in class.  For example, if you’re taking a three-credit hour class, you should set aside a minimum of six hours for reading and other preparation each week.  You’ll need to set a regular schedule to work on assignments and new material, not to mention the time you’ll spend online reading and posting in the course site.  In the end, you are the best judge of your own work load, study skills, and family or personal commitments.  We estimate that a well-organized, motivated student should be able to work part-time while completing these online degrees, but you should take your own circumstances into account before signing up. 

Do I have to be online during certain times of the day/week?

In general, we’ve designed these programs as asynchronous online degrees:  you can read, post, and complete assignments whenever it fits your schedule.  Most classes are set up on a weekly schedule, requiring participation in forums and other activities designed to gauge your progress.  Deadlines are set to allow your instructor and fellow classmates to read and respond to what you’re thinking while you respond to them in turn.  Depending on what sort of class you’re taking, your instructor might also set up a specific time to bring everyone together for a more lively, chat room-style discussion.  Make sure you check the syllabus for each course you’re taking to see what sorts of “attendance” requirements are included.  

What is an “intensive?”

Our distance programs combine the best of both worlds:  the convenience of online courses and the opportunity to participate in a residential community.  Two times each year, you’ll come to campus for a two-week block of courses and other community interaction called an intensive.  These sessions provide time to meet your instructors and fellow students, as well as participate in worship and other community-building activities.  They’re called intensive for a reason, though:  taking an entire seminary class in two weeks requires work both before and after your time in residence.  These pre- and post-load assignments make sure you’re able to make the most of the days you spend on campus at the University of Dubuque Theological Seminary.  For an outline of the calendar for these intensives, click here.

Do I have to be good with computers to do this?

Our goal for distance theological education at the University of Dubuque Theological Seminary is to make it easier for you to prepare for ministry, not more difficult.  We have a great team of people committed to providing technical support for all of our students, both residential and online.  They can answer your questions and help with any problems.  When you sign up for distance courses from us, we provide you with a thorough orientation to our course management system.  We want to make sure you know how the course site works before your studies begin so you can focus on the material you’re learning, not the method used to deliver the material.   

What resources are available while I’m studying online?

In addition to prompt technical support, the staff at the Charles C. Myers Library is happy to send you the books, articles, and other resources you’ll need for research during your classes.  Our electronic reserve system allows you to electronically access articles and other materials your instructors may use to supplement your texts.  The Registrar, Financial Aid, and Business Offices will work with you to register and pay for your classes.  The Seminary Pastor to Students and Student Council are available to provide support and advocacy for every member of our community.  Your academic advisor is ready to guide you through your classes and other aspects of the curriculum, and student forums and chat rooms give you a place to keep in touch with your fellow students.  All of these resources are only a phone call or email away:  when you join the UDTS community, you join a family of believers who are committed to making sure your seminary experience is the best it can possibly be. 

How long can I take to complete the M.Div. online program? 
What if I need a break?

The Distance M.Div. degree is designed as a combination of online and residential classes taken over four years (Click here for paradigm), while the Distance MAMC is designed to be completed in two and a half years (Click here for paradigm).  Staying on schedule gives you the best opportunity to complete your degree in a timely manner.  We realize, however, that sometimes life circumstances get in the way of the most organized plans.  You are allowed a maximum of seven years to complete your degree:  that would allow you to take a semester or a whole year off, if needed.  Your academic advisor and the Academic and Student Affairs Committee will work with you to determine the best course of action to meet your needs.  

I’m not a member of the Presbyterian Church (USA).  Can I still take online classes?

Absolutely!  The University of Dubuque Theological Seminary welcomes students from every denomination.  Our CLP program is specifically designed for lay pastors in the Presbyterian Church (USA), but we do not discriminate our admissions based on denomination.  You will want to check with your judicatory to make certain they will accept an online degree from UDTS for ordination.  Our residential community includes Presbyterians, Methodists, Congregationalists, Disciples, and Reformed, just to name a few.  Our online classes include Presbyterian-specific courses to help those students prepare for their denomination’s ordination exams, but we also offer electives for non-PC(USA) students.  No matter which denomination you belong to, you belong at the University of Dubuque Theological Seminary:  our calling is to be a place where diversity is appreciated and Christian love is practiced.   

I’m currently a student at another seminary.  Can I take classes online from UDTS?

We’re happy to supplement your preparation at another seminary with online classes.  This option is especially attractive for Presbyterian students attending non-Presbyterian seminaries:  our online courses designed for Presbyterian students are offered every year.  Because our online program is fully accredited, any course you take from us is transferable to your current degree program, depending on the regulations of your home seminary.  (Be sure you check with your institution’s requirements before enrolling.)  CLICK HERE for unclassified student application information.

Can I afford online classes at University of Dubuque Theological Seminary?

We’re committed to provide the best possible seminary experience for our students.  Our distance degree programs make this experience possible without uprooting your family:  the convenience of asynchronous classes allows you to work part-time while still preparing for ministry.  We encourage our students to practice sound financial stewardship, which will allow them to graduate without significant debt.  Federal student loans are available to help with the costs of both degree programs.  For information about tuition and fees for our CLP program, click here;  for unclassified students, click here

How do I apply?

Applying for an online program at the University of Dubuque Theological Seminary is quick and easy.  Each program has its own deadlines for application:  be sure to note the dates for each.  For the CLP application form, click here;  for M.Div. or MAMC online (the full program or individual online courses), click here.  As an institution of the church, Dubuque Seminary does not exist solely for a student’s private interest.  Membership in the seminary community is by invitation of the admissions committee.  All applications for degree programs are reviewed by this committee without prejudicial regard to race, ethnic origin, sex, marital status, physical handicap, or age. 

I still have questions.  Who can I talk to?

We’d love to tell you more about distance education at UDTS.  Drop us a note, give us a call:  Deregistration@dbq.edu, 1.888.207.8218.  The Office of Admissions can be reached at udtsadms@dbq.edu, 1.800.369.UDTS (8387).