Master of Divinity (MDiv) Program

 “The MDiv program at Harvard Divinity School is unparalleled in the diversity of the people, perspectives, and vocational pathways it holds together.  Yet, all of our students are united in their desire to do what they can with what they have to make the world more loving and more beautiful than they found it.” 

- Teddy Hickman-Maynard, Associate Dean for Ministry Studies 

Master of Divinity students often speak of "answering a call.” It can be a call to ministry in a wide range of religious traditions, but there are many other calls they answer. Hospital and hospice chaplaincy. Social justice work. Nonprofit advocacy. Climate activism. Education. Humanitarian aid. Whatever calls you, a master of divinity degree from Harvard Divinity School will open your mind and heart, and train you for a lifetime of service. 

The three-year, full-time master of divinity (MDiv) program consists of rigorous intellectual scholarship combined with real-world experience, in settings such as churches, synagogues, mosques, hospitals, shelters, and other institutions of care. Students study their own faith tradition (and many others) alongside students from different traditions and backgrounds. Students who consider themselves “spiritual but not religious,” atheist, agnostic, or have embarked on their own spiritual formation, are a welcome and large segment of the HDS master of divinity cohort.  

Students graduating with a master of divinity leave HDS with knowledge and experience that prepare them to serve within a religious community, to explore spiritually formative intellectual work, to evaluate and act on the needs and questions of religious and other communities, and to speak with both a pastoral and a public voice in many different settings. 

Is the MDiv degree at Harvard Divinity School best for me?

Interested in learning more about the Master of Divinity (MDiv) at Harvard Divinity and the admissions process?

Introduce Yourself

The MDiv program includes:

  • Rigorous education in the religious traditions that shape the scholarly, spiritual, and practical dimensions of a vocation to ministry

  • The capacity to use the fundamental intellectual tools of the study of religion

  • Genuine reading competence in a scriptural language and/or a language of theological scholarship that allows for the lifelong use of that language in ministerial leadership and scholarly inquiry

  • Education in the arts of ministry pursued in both the classroom and the field

  • Significant learning in a religious tradition other than one's own

  • Cultivation of the intellectual, spiritual, and pastoral agility that will enable graduates to move with skill, confidence, generosity, and grace across the complex and diverse religious, cultural, and moral spheres of modern society.

  • Ordained or lay ministry and leadership in congregations and other religious communities

  • Ministries in social service, hospital, and prison chaplaincy

  • Interfaith ministry on college campuses

  • Teaching and scholarship

  • Writing and journalism

  • Nonprofit management

  • Other careers in service to a just world at peace.


At HDS, there is almost no field of study that does not touch in some way upon ministry preparation. While the entire Faculty of Divinity is, in this sense, engaged in teaching ministry,  the Office of Ministry Studies (OMS) and the faculty members who work specifically in ministry studies provide a focal point for the MDiv program and its relation to professional ministry. 

Master of divinity students may declare a religious tradition they are studying at the beginning of their program; using that tradition as the foundation, with the advice of their advisor, they build a cohesive 24-course program. It is not required, however, that an MDiv student declare a religious tradition. In fact, many of our master of divinity students do not have any religious affiliation or identify with multiple spiritualities. 

  • Three years of full-time study

  • Twenty-four courses (96 units)

  • Completion of "Introduction to Ministry Studies," "Theories and Methods in the Study of Religion," and "Meaning Making—Thinking Theologically about Ministry Experience"

  • Two field education placements

  • Twelve courses within Histories, Theologies, and Practices and Scriptural Interpretation as follows:

    • Minimum of six courses within Histories, Theologies, and Practices, any mix of traditions

    • Minimum of three courses with Scriptural Interpretations, any mix of traditions

    • No more than nine courses total may be in the same tradition, or no tradition

  • Three semesters of a single language appropriate to the religious tradition of study

  • Completion of three Arts of Ministry

  • Completion of Senior Seminar and paper

  • Residency requirement: students must complete four courses each in two of their first three consecutive terms

  • "B" average must be maintained throughout the program

For additional requirements, policies, and details consult the HDS Handbook for Students and Field Education

Language Study—a distinctive difference


Language study at Harvard Divinity School is one of the highlights of many students' experience. HDS offers instruction in several languages, including Pali, a written language of early Buddhism. Students may also choose from the extensive language offerings of Harvard University's Faculty of Arts and Sciences. Students are expected to address their language requirements as early in their programs as possible. 

MDiv students may meet the language requirement in one of two ways: 1) by completing the master of theological studies language competency requirement, or 2) by satisfactorily completing three semesters of study in one language relevant to their program through coursework at Harvard.