Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

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Updated August 7, 2020

In 1859, Southern Baptists established the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Greenville, South Carolina. The original faculty had an impressive academic background with degrees from Brown University, Princeton Theological Seminary, University of Alabama, University of Georgia, Harvard and Yale. In addition to their strong academic background, all faculty members were accomplished preachers and pastors.

Just two years after the school's founding, however, the outbreak of the Civil War reduced enrollment significantly as students left school to join the war effort. The school closed in the fall of 1862 after losing its endowment. The founders were undaunted, however, and decided to reopen the school in 1865 solely on faith. In order to reestablish their endowment, however, they had to relocate the seminary. They chose Louisville, Kentucky, because town members pledged support to the young school. The school officially moved to Kentucky in 1877 where 89 students enrolled.

Despite the endowment from the Kentucky Baptists, finances were difficult for the seminary. Many endowment pledges remained unfulfilled and, at the end of 1880, the school could not pay faculty salaries. Facing closure, the trustees reached out to donors who gave $200,000 to keep the school open. The school expanded and, in 1926, the seminary moved to its current campus, known as "The Beeches." Endowments grew over the next few years, although the school did suffer financially again during the Great Depression. In 1935, enrollment began to climb again, a climb that lasted for 25 years.

In 1940, the first African American students were admitted to the seminary despite the fact that Kentucky law prohibited full integration until 1954. Today, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary is one of the largest theological seminaries with enrollment of more than 5,000 students.

Southern Baptist Theological Seminary Accreditation Details

The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. Accreditation indicates that the school agrees to voluntary periodic evaluations by the Commission to confirm that they offer education that meets the criteria set forth by the agency. During this evaluation, the school agrees to address any areas that the Commission deems as needing improvement. The seminary is also accredited by the Commission on Accrediting of the Association of Theological Schools as well as the National Association of Schools of Music.

Southern Baptist Theological Seminary Application Requirements

In order to attend Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, students must complete an online application and provide official transcripts. If they have attended any institutes of higher learning, they must submit official transcripts from all attended. Students must also submit an official endorsement from the local church where they attend. The person who recommends the student cannot be a family member and must have known the applicant for at least one year.

Each doctoral program at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary has its own admission criteria. Students must contact an admissions counselor before applying.

Southern Baptist Theological Seminary Tuition and Financial Aid

Tuition at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary is $309 per credit hour for members of a Southern Baptist Convention church. Students who are not members of an SBC church pay $618 per credit hour. The annual cost of a Master of Divinity degree at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary is 62 percent more affordable than at other seminaries. Students may also participate in the Southern Baptist Convention's Cooperative program which reduces tuition by 50 percent.

Financial aid is available in the form of scholarships and Cooperative Program funding. Southern Baptist Theological Seminary does not participate in federal student aid programs. Therefore, students do not need to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Although the school is eligible to participate in federal student aid programs, they choose not to accept federal funding in order to remain independent from federal oversight. Students may qualify for a Southern Baptist Theological Seminary scholarship depending on financial need.

Southern Baptist Theological Seminary Online Degree(s) Available

Master of Divinity

The online Master of Divinity offered at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary is designed for pastors, chaplains, missionaries, educators and others in leadership roles in today's changing world. The program is 88 credit hours and has been engineered to provide students with the knowledge they need for ministry. Students learn in courses that focus on the Bible, theology, counseling, history, ministry practice and more. The online program consists of eight-week terms which allow students to take classes more frequently and focus on fewer subjects at one time. Students may customize their course of study in the following areas:

  • Apologetics
  • Biblical and Theological Studies
  • Biblical Counseling
  • Biblical Spirituality
  • Christian Ministry
  • Church and Pastoral Ministries
  • Church Planting
  • Discipleship and Family Ministry
  • Great Commission Studies
  • International Church Planting
  • International Missions
  • Islamic Studies
  • Itinerant Evangelism
  • Leadership
  • Missions and Bible Translation
  • Missions and Biblical Counseling
  • North American Missions
  • Pastoral Studies
  • Urban Missions
  • Worldview and Culture
  • Worship Leadership

Master of Arts in Theological Studies

The Master of Arts in Theological Studies is designed for students called to ministry in an ever-changing world. The degree is the basic master's level program designed to prepare students for ministry. The following concentrations may be earned completely online:

  • Theological Studies – Intercultural Leadership
  • Theological Studies (Billy Graham School) – Lay Leadership
  • Theological Studies (School of Theology) – Lay Leadership

Pending course development, Apologetics or Islamic Studies concentrations may be earned completely online. Currently, 50 percent of the concentrations in Christian Education, Church Ministries, Discipleship and Family Ministry, leadership, Missiology and Worship Leadership must be earned at the Louisville campus. The majority of the Biblical Counseling degree may be earned online, although some classes must be taken on campus.

Southern Baptist Theological Seminary has been offering degree programs steeped in Baptist principles for more than a century. All programs offered at the school are focused on the commitment to the Bible as the Word of God. Graduates are not only prepared for leadership roles in their field of study, but they are also prepared to be servants of the churches of the Southern Baptist Convention. Southern Baptist Theological Seminary prepares graduates who intend to be ministers of the gospel for more faithful service.

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