The Thistle

Ordination Rates for Covenant Seminary Master of Divinity Graduates

Updated November 15, 2016: Following the original publication of this article, other alumni provided current information. The numbers in this revised edition have been adjusted to reflect these changes.

Ordination Process. A recent survey of 519 graduates of Covenant Seminary’s Master of Divinity program reveals the following patterns for entering the ordination process.

  • 30% of these graduates are ordained within 6 months of graduation.
  • Of those who took longer to work through the ordination process, there were a number of factors. The top reason graduates were not ordained sooner was because their first position was not considered ordainable, either by the church leadership or the denomination. These include director or support-staff positions, hospital chaplaincy, and missionary service.
  • 46 graduates initially entered into ministry in denominations that did not have traditional ordination requirements or simply did not require ordination.
  • Only 7 candidates took more than four years after graduation to be ordained, compared to a median length of one year.
  • 6 participants were excluded from the data because they were ordained as pastors in non-denominational churches prior to attending seminary, and they maintained this earlier date.

Ministry Positions. The graduates were from the 2009–2015 classes and included:

  • 136 serving as assistant/associate pastors, 31 as lead pastors, and 29 as campus ministers.
  • 124 serving in support ministry positions, including youth ministry, church planting residencies, counseling positions, and parachurch ministries.
  • Of the remaining 199:
    • 49 chose to move into marketplace positions after graduation.
    • 16 pursued doctoral studies.
    • 16 became teachers.
    •   6 identified themselves as homemakers.
    • 44 were placed into ministry positions, but their ordination status is unknown.
    • 11 struggled to find ministry placement and were categorized as “not placed.”
    • 57 have a status of “unknown.”

Faculty Involvement. Covenant Seminary’s faculty instructs with ordination in view. This includes:

  • Requiring students to memorize outlines for books of the Bible and dedicating a portion of class time to discussing the questions that need to be addressed for ordination examinations.
  • Requiring all MDiv students (except those on the Specialized Track) to take the one-credit Preparation for Licensure and Ordination Exams (PT411) course dedicated to the ordination process.
  • Requiring all students are to pass a Bible context exam or successfully complete the basic Bible Content elective. (Old Testament Overview and New Testament Overview are available online at the Seminary’s Resources page.)

Denominational Service. Among the 312 graduates who were identified as ordained and serving in vocational ministry positions:

  • 254 were serving with the Presbyterian Church in America (81%).
  • 19 were with the Evangelical Presbyterian Church (7%).
  • 6 were serving with other Reformed Presbyterian denominations (2%).
  • The remaining 33 served in a variety of denominational and non-denominational churches.

Experience of the Ordination Process.

  • Fewer than 8% indicated they had to work through one or more sections of the ordination process more than once. Most of those who struggled indicated that they felt supported in and through the process.
  • Those who struggled through the ordination process the first time also shared that they found great encouragement from others who had similar experiences.


Joel Hathaway serves as Director of Alumni and Career Services for Covenant Seminary.