The total number of master of divinity students at theological schools in the United States and Canada continued to decline in 2022 even as the number of students enrolled in master of arts programs continued to increase, according to a new report from the Association of Theological Schools.
The ATS report projects a total of 28,000 MDiv students enrolled in U.S. and Canadian schools in the fall of 2022, a 4 percent decline from the 29,100 in 2021. There were 30,455 MDiv students in 2020, although the decline pre-dates the pandemic, with 30,803 MDiv students in 2019 and 30,848 in 2018.
Since 2018, the total number of MDiv students has decreased by 9 percent, according to the ATS report.
“MDiv enrollment remains a substantial proportion of enrollment in fall 2022 at about 35 percent, but this is a marked difference from even ten years ago when MDiv students represented 43 percent of total enrollment,” the report says.
At the same time, enrollment in master of arts programs is climbing. ATS projects 27,900 MA students enrolled in theological schools in the fall of 2022. That’s a 1 percent increase from the 27,591 in 2021 and a 5 percent increase since 2018 (26,535).
“For the first time in the history of ATS schools,” the report said, “the enrollment of MA students” is “on par with MDiv enrollment.”
Master of Arts degrees require fewer hours to complete. An MDiv is scheduled to take three years to complete and an MA scheduled for two years.
Meanwhile, the category of doctor of ministry and “other professional doctoral” continues to grow, with a projected 12,300 students enrolled in the fall of 2022, a 4 percent increase from 2021 and a 24 percent increase from 2018. Ph.D./Th.D. enrollment is projected to grow by 5 percent in the fall of 2022.
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Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.