The Association of Theological Schools, the main accrediting agency for North American Seminaries, has just issued its annual report on how 2015 graduates from theological schools are doing.  Here’s a summary of the most important statistics:


Increase in older students, decrease in younger students. Since 2011, the percentage of students over 55 has increased from 11 percent to 16 percent in 2015. This increase in older students has been matched by a significant decrease in students under 25, which dropped from 11 percent to 5 percent  between 2011 and 2014–2015.

Increase in diversity of students. While students identifying as white (non-international) have dropped from 75 percent in 2008–2009 to 63 percent in 2014–2015, the percentage of respondents identifying as black (nonHispanic) has risen from 13 percent to 17 percent. Hispanic and Asian graduates have remained steady.

Educational Debt

45% of students graduate without debt.

50% have more than $10,000 of seminary debt.

80% of black students accrue debt with 30% hitting $60,000 plus.

MDiv students accrue more seminary debt than academic or professional MA programs, partly due to the longer MDiv degree.

Vocational Goals

70% in local congregations. 70 percent of all MDiv graduates indicated that they would be seeking or have already attained positions in local congregations.

58% want to be pastors. 58% of male MDiv students intend to take leadership roles as pastors, priests, or associate pastors in local congregations.

31% bivocational. About 31 percent of graduates are or expect to be bivocational, and another 18 percent report considering bivocational ministry after graduation. Only 20 percent of 20–25 year olds planning on bivocational ministry versus 35 to 36 percent of 40–55 year olds.


The most important influencers of educational satisfaction are:

  • Experience in ministry
  • Personal life experiences
  • Interactions with students
  • Accessibility of Faculty
  • Quality of teaching
  • Class size
  • Quality of library

Satisfaction ratings showed significant similarities between traditional, on-campus and online graduates.

Anything surprise you here? Any action that seminaries should take in response to such research?

You can read the whole report here.

  • Steven Birn

    The bigger issue is where these people are 5 years after they graduate. Are they still in massive debt, are they still in ministry or even the church?

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