許多對神學研究的學位感興趣的人，面對各種學院制度時容易產生誤解及混淆。American Association of Religion (AAR) 的網站上整理了一些資訊以茲說明。
實踐性的包含 道學碩士（MDiv）、神學博士（ThD）、牧範學博士（ DMin，或稱教牧博士）。
學校名稱則有 Seminary， Divinity school，School of Theology ，Department of Religion，School of Religion，School of Religious Studies等多種。在中文譯名中無法全部地有效區分。
School of Theology 則雖然也學術，但內部的神學統整性一般較高。這多半是因為其創設時與宗派的聯繫。例如 Lutheran School of Theology [of Chicago], Talbot School of Theology, Claremont School of Theology, Candler School of Theology, Boston University School of Theology.
Department of Religion，School of Religion，Department of Religious Studies 則是以宗教社會學、宗教人類學和哲學方法等解析宗教的學術單位，絕大多數與大學院系平行，且教學研究並不帶有任何信仰框架。例如 Religious Studies Department – University of California, Santa Barbara, The Yale Department of Religious Studies, Department of religious Studies at Michigan State University, Penn’s Religious Studies, Department of Religion – Princeton University, Pacific School of Religion.
學程側重的面向不同和信仰框架的差異，也會直接影響學生畢業後事奉定位。由此可說，同樣的道學碩學士學位，由Seminary， Divinity school，和School of Theology 的內容編排會不同。文學碩士，Seminary到 School of Religious Studies 之間的差異就會更大。
MA (Master of Arts):
From Vanderbilt’s web-site: (http://www.vanderbilt.edu/gradschool/religion/degree/twoyear.html)
“The experience of the Graduate Department of Religion indicates that students enroll in the M.A. program for a variety of reasons. For some it is a means of being introduced to the field of religion, or to a special area within it. For others it is an opportunity to explore in greater depth a field of study with which the student has already become acquainted. For others it is a way of preparing for Ph.D. study, either by testing one’s own ability and motivation or by building an academic record which will support admission to a Ph.D. program. Students may find it advisable for any of these reasons to spend more than one year in the M.A. program and to enroll for more than 24 hours of course work.”
“The MTS is especially suited for persons interested in some aspect of teaching and research or engagement in social issues and is not intended for those whose primary immediate interests are in ministry or counseling. Students who plan to apply to a PhD program in religion or to teach at the secondary school level might seek this degree. Others may elect the degree out of intellectual curiosity. Students may focus their studies in Area I – Biblical Studies (Old Testament, New Testament, Biblical Languages), Area II – History and Interpretation of Christianity (Church History, Christian Thought, Historical Theology, Systematic Theology) and/or Area III – Christianity and Culture (Ethical Studies, Missions, Religion and Personality, Sociology and Religion, World Religions).”
“The MTS is closer to the master of arts than to the master of divinity. The program focuses more intensely on issues of academic theology and the study of religion in general, and less on issues of ministry. However, in contrast with the MA offered in some graduate schools which specializes in a single area of religious studies, the MTS covers all areas of theological studies.”
M.Div. (Master of Divinity)
From Princeton Theological Seminary: (http://www2.ptsem.edu/offices/admissions/programs/master.aspx)
The Master of Divinity is the basic professional degree for ministry, and is designed to prepare students for the parish ministry, for graduate study in theology and related disciplines, for various types of chaplaincy, for mission work at home and abroad, and for other forms of church vocation. The curriculum is planned to provide the flexibility and independence consonant with a broad theological foundation. Under full-time study, the M.Div. program takes three years to complete
“The Ph.D. program places theological or religious studies in the context of university research disciplines, and students are required to engage such a discipline in order to provide an additional critical and theoretical dimension to their work.”
Pursuing a PhD, (or any Doctorate) more so than any of the other degrees mentioned depends highly upon at least two factors: finding a school where you can explore your area of interest and/or identifying a specific Professor that will serve as your intellectual and professional guide through your Ph.D. program.
Also, remember when you are searching for a program, that you will also be living in a certain place, usually for 5-7 years. What are the costs? What type of funding does the program offer? Do I like the location? Since we are bodies and minds, intellectual and emotional creatures, these questions are valid questions to ask about a PhD program that you may be considering.
Th.D. (Doctorate of Theology)
From Harvard’s Web-site: http://www.fas.harvard.edu/~csrel/doctoral/faqs.html.
“Both the Th.D. and the Ph.D. programs are intended to prepare persons primarily for teaching and research in religion. In many respects, students in a particular field, e.g. theology, would follow almost the same course of study for specialization in that field whether in the Ph.D. or the Th.D. program.”
In general, the Th.D. is focused more specifically on Christian theology whereas a PhD is often more comparative. In addition, the Th.D. is most often awarded by seminary’s, divinity school’s, and school’s of theology, while the Ph.D. is offered by a university.
- 此外，神學博士通常是由 seminary，divinity school，school of theology所授與。哲學博士是由大學。（註：但這個界定現在已經非常模糊了。）
D.Min. (Doctor of Ministry)
From Howard University Divinity School: http://husd.dst01.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=16&Itemid=60.
“The Doctor of Ministry (D.Min.) program is designed for people who wish to engage in an advanced level of preparation for ministerial practice. It is not designed primarily for teaching and research, although effective ministry includes aspects of these. Its primary goal is the integration of theological and anthropological understandings in the context of responsible engagement of ministry.”
For more information about the D.Min. see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Doctor_of_Ministry.