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What are the Different Types of Christian Higher Education?

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  • Written By: Lainie Petersen
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 28 October 2016
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Christian higher education is available in several forms, some designed to prepare students for church-oriented careers and others providing liberal arts education from a Christian perspective. Different types of Christian higher education institutions include Bible institutes, Bible colleges, and seminaries. Each type of institution has a different focus and prepares students for different jobs and opportunities.

Bible institutes and Bible colleges are Christian higher education institutions with the purpose of training students for church and missionary careers, and their major courses of study are typically limited to those that directly relate to Christian and ministry training. The terms Bible college and Bible institute are sometimes used interchangeably, though there can be significant differences between the two types of schools. A Bible institute is usually a non-degree program that provides students with a course of study in the Bible, theology, and ministry skills. Upon completion of the program, the student usually receives a diploma. Bible colleges, on the other hand, typically provide some basic coursework in the liberal arts, and students can graduate with an undergraduate academic degree.

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Christian liberal arts colleges and universities have a different approach to Christian higher education than Bible colleges and Bible institutes. These schools offer a wide range of majors similar to those offered at secular schools, such as business, music, and communications. Students may be required to complete some religion courses or may have to attend chapel services, but much of their coursework may have no significant religious content. Students can graduate with standard undergraduate or graduate degrees.

Students who have an interest in being trained for ordained ministry or specialized graduate education may consider attending a theological seminary or graduate school. Seminaries, at least in the United States, are typically graduate schools that award the Master of Divinity degree to students who wish to become ministers or priests. Seminaries may also provide other types of specialized graduate degrees, such as a master's degree in Christian education, counseling, or various types of academic studies. An alternative to seminary is a Christian graduate school, which may or may not be connected to a Christian liberal arts college. These graduate schools may not offer training to prospective clergy, but instead specialize in offering graduate-level academic or professional degrees to students who wish to enter academia or complement their career with more in-depth knowledge of a particular discipline.

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