The Union seminary experience is designed to open up a range of possible career paths for our students. The paths emerge out of the sense of call each student brings, each student’s particular gifts, talents, and prior experience, and the unique experience that Union provides to discern which path to follow.
Ordination is required by many denominations* for specific types of ministry. Being ordained is also a benefit in many other career choices. Although Union does not ordain students, we do support the ordination process through our curriculum, field education, and affiliations with denominations and organizations.
Career options (for ordained and non-ordained careers) that are supported by a seminary education include:
Parish (pastoral) ministry
Those who sense a call to serve as pastors in a church in the 21st century are faced with a quickly changing landscape. The “Church” is redefining itself and being redefined as the world changes around it. Pastoral ministry can play itself out in a number of ways and settings. At the center of this form of ministry is a desire to proclaim God’s word, to build community, and to engage in mission with a core group of people in a consistent setting.
Hospital, hospice or military chaplaincy is a vital ministry to which some are called as an initial career option and to which others may migrate after pastoral careers in the parish or in the field. Union partners with several New York City locations for CPE (Clinical Pastoral Education) and field education placement to support those who are following a path toward chaplaincy.
Many of those entering seminary sense a call to teach. Some will seek ordination and the academy will become the ministry into which they will be ordained. Others will pursue specific areas of study or research that will broaden their respective fields and bring new ideas to the academy in ordained and non-ordained positions. Union supports the pursuit of careers in the academic field at all levels. Those interested in a career in higher education, may visit the PhD planner for further details.
Although students are not required to take a basic psychology (PS) course as part of the Masters of Divinity program, they may use a PS course to fulfill the second course requirement in the Practical Theology field and as part of their electives. At a minimum, knowing when to refer an individual for professional counseling is important. Some students may seek to pursue career options in the psychological or psychiatric field, using their Master of Divinity degree to bring theological and spiritual components to their work.
Social Justice/Community Organizing
Union has an unparalleled legacy of and commitment to applying theology and ethics to issues of social justice. In addition to raising awareness among potential religious and community leaders across a range of critical issues, Union’s many caucuses and affiliations with local organizations provide ample opportunities for students to receive hands-on experience with real world issues. The Poverty Initiative at Union offers a fellows program and invites all students to participate in its groundbreaking work to end poverty.
Union offers a four-year M.Div./MSSW degree in partnership with Columbia University and a M.Div./MSW degree with Hunter College. These programs prepare individuals for careers in Social Work while enhancing their experience with a full complement of theology and ethics courses that allow them to integrate their faith commitments to their chosen profession. The combined degree also provides value-added qualifications for those who choose to work within their denominations or religious organizations focusing on social work as a ministry.
Christian Education has emerged as a critical component of many denominations. Those who are called to teach and who also feel called to work within the parish setting may find that Christian Education is the best option to consider. Union provides excellent support for this important career opportunity in its course offerings and field education opportunities as well as its strong advisory staff.
Cross-Discipline (Law, Journalism, etc)
Students who have already obtained or are seeking to obtain a degree in a separate field, such as law, philosophy, science or virtually any field of study may also seek to add a religious and ethical component to their professional qualifications. Union emphasizes the interconnectedness of spiritual and religious concerns with real world issues and challenges and prepares students to make those connections across a range of professions.
*Not all religious bodies require ordination. Some use a process called endorsement. A seminary education generally improves career opportunities, regardless of denominational requirements for ordination.