Master of Divinity

Long considered the definitive degree for professional ministry, the Master of Divinity at Candler integrates challenging academics, in-depth contextual learning, and faculty-led mentoring like no other seminary. Available in residential or hybrid/online format.

Why the Master of Divinity?

students distributing communion elements

I’m called to ministry

Is God calling you to help transform the world? Students motivated by a call to ministry are a great fit for the MDiv. The form your ministry might take will depend on your call and your unique gifts. It might be church ministry, chaplaincy, nonprofit work, social justice advocacy, teaching…or something just now on the horizon.

Candler School of Theology | Graduation

I’m seeking academic advancement

Do you plan to continue your education through a PhD program in theology or religion? Candler’s strong academics coupled with the MDiv’s emphasis on applied theology forms thoughtful scholars whose research and teaching has the potential to change hearts and minds.

Candler students protesting

I want to promote social change

Do you have a passion for social change? If you are looking to spark and lead societal change guided by Christian theology that calls for peace, justice, and love, the MDiv can give you the background and tools to pursue that work and the spiritual resources to sustain it.

On campus or hybrid/online


Candler’s Master of Divinity is available in two formats: a residential plan with in-person learning on campus or a hybrid plan with the majority of classes online and the remainder as short, in-person intensives.


Candler School of Theology MDiv Program Hybrid

Whether you take classes on campus or online, you’ll follow the same carefully designed curriculum taught by the same exceptional faculty, be supported by the world-class Pitts Theology Library, have access to resources for student success and spiritual formation, and be welcomed fully into the Candler community.

Have questions about our hybrid option? Check out our hybrid Master of Divinity FAQ

Curriculum Overview

For students beginning in Fall 2023 or after, Candler's MDiv curriculum comprises 72 hours and is designed to be completed in three or four years. MDiv students take courses in biblical studies, historical studies, systematic theology, ethics, religion and society, world religions, and practical theology/arts of ministry.

View degree requirements
Candler School of Theology MDiv Program History Interpretation
Bibles stacked on a desk
Computer screen with teaching slides in lecture classroom

Contextual Education at Candler

Classroom, context, critical reflection

Complete preparation for ministry

Candler's approach to hands-on learning is distinctive, right down to its name. While others call it "field education," we call it "contextual education," and it’s much more than just learning by doing. Con Ed is an intentional integration of academic learning from the classroom, applied learning from ministry sites, and critical reflection on the interplay of the two. It’s the hallmark of Candler’s MDiv curriculum, giving students the experience and the space they need to more clearly discern their call and hone their gifts for ministry. First-year MDiv students serve in clinical or social ministry settings, and second-year students serve in ecclesial settings. Regular faculty-led reflection groups bring the learning full circle.

Learn More

Master of Divinity Degree Requirements

To qualify for the MDiv degree, a candidate who begins the program in Fall 2023 or later must complete each of these requirements.

Requirements for Admission

To enter the MDiv program, a candidate must have:

  • A bachelor’s or equivalent degree from a regionally accredited college or university.
  • A well-balanced program of work in the liberal arts.

Credit Hours

In fulfilling the 72 credit hours required to complete the MDiv degree, students who enter the program in Fall 2023 and later may not exceed certain hours limits in certain course categories, such as Contextual Education, internships, Teaching Parish, summer courses, and directed study, among others. Learn more about credit hour limitations here.

GPA Requirements

In courses taken to fulfill requirements, students must earn a letter grade of at least C, i.e., 2.0 on a scale of 4.0. Students who earn less than a C in a course intended to meet a requirement may retake the course. However, the same course cannot be counted more than once toward the total credit hours for graduation and both instances of the course remain on the Emory official transcript and are part of the student’s GPA calculation.

Curricular Requirements

Students must complete the following courses and requirements in the MDiv curriculum.

First-Year Courses

  • MDiv 500 Introduction to Theological Formation (3 hours)
  • MDiv 600 First Year Spring Seminar (3 hours)

In the Fall semester of the first year, all students enroll in MDiv 500 Introduction to Theological Formation. This course is designed to form students in practices and methods of theological inquiry and discourse while keeping them in conversation with their deepest purposes for pursuing theological education. It will accompany them in the work of discernment around fundamental questions of identity, community and vocation.

In the Spring semester of the first year, students enroll in MDiv 600 Spring Seminar. Spring Seminars are integrative, theologically interdisciplinary, thematically focused first-year courses taught by faculty from different curricular areas. Each of these courses will be designed to foster interdisciplinary engagement and extended conversation around a particular theme that matters for theological education—themes such as discipleship, justice, mission, prayer, migration, story, and creation. This course serves as a curricular center of gravity, cultivating small learning communities that support and nurture theological formation while allowing students, including those who enter the MDiv program for the first time in a Spring semester, to explore their own motivating questions.

Biblical Studies Courses

  • OT 500-Level Course (3 hours)
  • OT 600-Level Course (3 hours)
  • NT 500-Level Course (3 hours)
  • NT 600-Level Course (3 hours)

History of Christianity

Students will take two courses in History of Christianity (HC), each from a different era and at least one of which must be taken at the 500-level. (6 hours)

  • Era 1 HC 500-549 OR HC 600-649 (3 hours)
  • Era 2 HC 550-596 OR HC 650-698 (3 hours)
  • At least one 500-level from among the courses above

Systematic Theology

  • ST 501 Systematic Theology (3 hours)
  • ST Elective (3 hours)

Christianity and Culture

  • ES 500-Level Course (3 hours)

Religion and Society

Students choose from courses in Mission (M), Sociology of Religion (SR), or Church and Community (CC) to fulfill the Religion and Society requirement.

  • Any M, SR, or CC course (3 hours)

World Religions

Students choose a WR course offered through Candler or a course from outside Candler that meets the criteria approved by the Candler faculty as determined by the Dean of Academic Affairs.

  • Any WR course (3 hours)

Practical Theology/Arts of Ministry

Students will take three course in Practical Theology/Arts of Ministry, each from a different subjeect area (CHP, CC, CM, EV, LA, PT, P, RE, or W) and at least two of which must be taken at the 500-level. (9 hours)

Contextual Education

  • Two courses taken at the 500-level (6 hours)
  • Two courses taken at the 600-level (6 hours)

The four semesters of required contextual education must be taken in sequence and may be fulfilled through one of the following options:


  • Contextual Education I
  • Remote Contextual Education I
  • Teaching Parish Remote Teaching Parish
  • Episcopal and Anglican Studies Contextual Education


  • Contextual Education II
  • Remote Contextual Education II
  • Teaching Parish
  • Remote Teaching Parish
  • Episcopal and Anglican Studies Contextual Education
  • Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE)

Please contact our Contextual Education office if you have questions about these requirements.


Four courses (12 hours) may be used to complete courses that fulfil denominational requirements, certificates, concentrations, or be used to take courses of interest that are not needed elsewhere in the plan of study.

Race, Ethnicity, Gender and/or Global Contexts (REGG)

Students must take at least one course among the required courses above that is designated as REGG. These courses are designed to address dynamics and challenges related to issues of race, ethnicity, gender, and/or global contexts in both readings and assignments thematically throughout the semester.

Advising and Assessment

In addition to the curricular requirements listed above, students in the MDiv program are required to complete advising each semester and to complete the Final Year Integrative Advising Conversation.

First-year students are required to participate in a first-year advising group composed of small groups of first-year students along with a faculty adviser. These groups will assist first-year students with ongoing orientation to Candler.

The faculty adviser will hold an advising conversation with every advisee at least once each semester during the advising period, where the student’s progress in the MDiv program and coursework for the coming term are discussed.

Students who do not have an advising conversation prior to preregistration will have a hold placed on their OPUS account and will be prevented from registering until advising is completed and the faculty adviser notifies the Candler registrar’s office.

Final Year Integrative Advising Conversation

In the final year of the MDiv program, the academic adviser conducts an Integrative Advising Conversation with their advisees. The purpose of this conversation is to discuss the student’s overall progress in theological studies, reflection on the Candler experience, state of vocational discernment, and post-MDiv plans (including continuing education). Completion of the Integrative Advising Conversation is a graduation requirement. In preparation, students will prepare a portfolio that will be submitted to the academic adviser at least one week prior to the interview. The portfolio shall include materials from courses taken across the curriculum, evaluations from each semester of contextual education, and a senior statement. For a detailed list of portfolio requirements, please see the Candler Catalog and Handbook.

Thesis Option

The thesis option provides an opportunity for independent study and research geared to the individual student’s ability and interests. MDiv students with a minimum grade point average of 3.5 at the end of thirty-six hours of coursework, including Contextual Education I and the first semester of Contextual Education II are invited in the spring semester of the second year to write an MDiv thesis. A maximum of 12 students per year will be selected. All course, Contextual Education, and advising requirements of the MDiv program will apply to those selected to write a thesis.

Eligible students will be contacted in February of the eligible year and invited to apply. Interested students submit a one page, single-spaced letter of intent detailing their thesis interest, plus supporting letters from the faculty adviser and proposed thesis adviser, before the stated deadline to the academic dean. For most students, this will be at the beginning of the fourth semester (spring of the second year). Selection will be made before the end of the fall pre-registration advising period by the academic dean.

As the title suggests, the main feature of the thesis option is the writing of a thesis. Students selected for the thesis option are required to enroll in a directed study with their thesis adviser in the fall (typically the fifth) semester. This directed study (which may be free-standing or connected to a class that the thesis adviser is teaching that semester) will be awarded between one and three hours of credit, as determined by the academic dean in consultation with the thesis adviser. It will be focused on the thesis topic and will culminate in a 15–20 page paper to be read and assessed by the thesis adviser.

The thesis adviser determines if the paper is of sufficient quality, shows progress in research, and is leading to a clearer understanding of the thesis topic. If these conditions are not met, then the student will be given a grade for the directed study but will not be allowed to complete the MDiv thesis option. If the thesis adviser determines that the initial paper does meet these conditions, then a grade of IP (in progress) will be assigned to the directed study and the student will be permitted to enroll in three hours of MDIV650: MDiv Thesis in his or her final (typically the sixth) semester. At this stage, the thesis adviser and the student, in consultation with the academic dean, select a second reader for the thesis, who agrees to read and assess the thesis for a grade.

Students enrolled in MDIV650 will be assigned a grade for both semesters of work on the thesis on the basis of the final grade awarded for the thesis. The IP grade for the fall semester directed study will be changed to reflect the grade for the thesis once the thesis has been marked. The thesis and directed study must be taken for a letter grade, and the minimum passing grade is a B. Thesis credits do not fulfill MDiv common courses or common requirements, but may fulfill concentration requirements with the approval of the concentration coordinator. The completed thesis is normally 45–60 pages in length.

The final draft of the MDiv thesis is due to both readers by the first Monday in April of the semester before graduation. The two readers agree on a grade for the thesis, which is submitted to the registrar. In cases where the readers cannot agree on a grade, the thesis will be submitted to the academic dean for adjudication. After the graded copy is returned, the student must submit a corrected version, based on reader comments, to Emory Library’s ETD system by the senior grading deadline (etd.library.emory. edu). Students who do not complete the thesis by the deadline, but have completed all other courses needed for graduation, are required to register for MDIV999R: Master of Divinity Administrative Fee each semester until the thesis has been submitted successfully and the student graduates. For further information, contact the associate dean of faculty and academic affairs.


Here, “residence” pertains to the number of credit hours that must be completed through Candler and not via transfer or cross-registration. Residence policies for the MDiv (including maximum transfer credit, maximum cross-registration, and maximum summer school hours) can be found here.

Hybrid Option

The curricular and residence requirements for hybrid MDiv students are identical to the curricular and residence requirements for students in the on-campus MDiv.

Hybrid students take the majority of their classes in a remote/online format. Most of Candler’s remote/online classes have real-time synchronous components that require students to be able to log into Zoom or another internet-based platform to participate in live class meetings at specified times each week during the regular semester.

In addition to online coursework, hybrid students take a portion of their classes in person, usually through short on-campus intensives or travel seminars in August and May, with additional intensives options in January and in other parts of the summer term. Hybrid students who live in the Atlanta area may elect to take their in-person classes on campus during the regular semester rather than during an abbreviated intensive term.

The hybrid MDiv is designed to be completed in 3 or 4 years, with a 6-year maximum time to completion. Please note that denominational ordination requirements may require particular courses to be taken in person. Students are responsible for understanding and meeting their specific ordination requirements.

Read our hybrid Master of Divinity FAQ

CB26 Pattern CB26 Pattern

Tailor your MDiv degree

Tailor your MDiv degree Image

MDiv students can customize their learning experience and deepen their engagement with a particular area of study by choosing from six dual degrees, seven certificates, and 12 concentrations.

MDiv students may choose to pursue a dual degree in the following areas:

MDiv students may choose to declare an academic concentration in the following areas:

  • Catholic Studies
  • Chaplaincy
  • Formation and Witness
  • Justice, Peacebuilding, and Conflict Transformation
  • Leadership in Church and Community
  • Religion and Race
  • Scripture and Interpretation
  • Society and Personality
  • Theology and the Arts
  • Theology and Ethics
  • Traditions of the Church
  • World Christianity

Candler Firsthand

Here’s what a few Master of Divinity alumni had to say about their Candler experience.

Decoration SVG
Cerise Barton standing outside Cannon Chapel

“Candler has truly been the incubator and apex of my growth and my theological and spiritual formation. My Candler experience has shaped, formed and prepared me for the world ahead. The current state of our world compels us to find our voice and become agents for social change and reform as our world calls us out of the shadows.”

Cerise Barton

MDiv '23

Tiffania Willetts standing outside on the Emory Quad
Tiffania Willetts standing outside on the Emory Quad

“At Candler, I’ve been able to integrate my faith and my theological education in ways I had never imagined. It is life-giving to be in a place where real conversations to challenge and refine Christian theology are taking place, all within an understanding of God’s grace.”

Tiffania Willetts

MDiv '18

Candler School of Theology Campus
Candler School of Theology Campus

“I wanted to attend a program that equipped me to be not just a minister, but a scholar as well. Unlike other top seminaries, Candler still has strong ties to the university and there are a wealth of resources available that we as students can take advantage of.”

Jermaine Pearson

MDiv '16

Cerise Barton standing outside Cannon Chapel
Cerise Barton standing outside Cannon Chapel

“Candler has truly been the incubator and apex of my growth and my theological and spiritual formation. My Candler experience has shaped, formed and prepared me for the world ahead. The current state of our world compels us to find our voice and become agents for social change and reform as our world calls us out of the shadows.”

Cerise Barton

MDiv '23

Decoration Graphic

Ready to take the next step in answering your call?

How to Apply