Top 20 Theological Schools or Seminaries in the U.S.
Choosing where you receive your theological education is one of the most important decisions you will ever make. A school will influence your circle of acquaintances, your open doors, your future opportunities, your closest friends, your network alignments, your worldview, and your theological positions, not to mention the quality of your training. The sheer quantity and variety of choices can lead to analysis paralysis. In the following review, we have researched the top 20 theological schools and seminaries to provide you with a summary of the leading places for training. Each have their own strengths, weaknesses, foci, and constituency, but each one offers a choice for anyone who is aspiring to grow his or her knowledge of God and his Word.
- Some schools have been included in this list in spite of their failure to embrace orthodox Christianity. Some believers pursuing entrance into the scholarly world by higher education may benefit from the secular education of such schools, but they may not be best suited for the aspiring pastor, missionary, or church planter.
- All tuition amounts are estimates.
Evangelical | Ft. Lauderdale, Florida | Established in 1989
Tuition: $8,025 per yer
D. James Kennedy, former pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church, founded Knox Theological Seminary in 1989. He named the school after the 16th Century Scottish reformer, John Knox. John Knox is widely considered to be the founder of the Presbyterian denomination in Scotland, and the school has a decidedly reformed tilt, though it is not a denominational school. Although it is a newer school, Knox has already built a reputation for its solid faculty, including teachers such as R. C. Sproul, Michael Allen, and George W. Knight III. Knox is a top choice especially for those who are pursuing theological training from a Reformed perspective.
Asbury Theological Seminary
Evangelical | Wilmore, Kentucky | Established in 1923
Tuition: $9,140 per year
Asbury was founded in the Wesleyan heritage by Henry Clay Morrison, a Methodist evangelist whose vision of Asbury was that of a leading holiness school. Today, Asbury is an approved school of the United Methodist Church. The seminary’s theological position is mainline Protestant, and it is recognized as a school that blends spiritual formation with intellectual advancement. Notable faculty members at Asbury include John Oswald and Ben Witherington III. Theological students who see their future as part of the United Methodist Church, or those in a Wesleyan or Nazarene tradition, should keep Asbury high in their consideration.
Non-denominational | Pasadena, California | Established in 1947
Tuition: $9,540 per year
As the flagship evangelical school during evangelicalism’s growing pains of the 50s-60s, Fuller has retained its status as the place to go for high-quality theological training. Hailed as “the most influential” of evangelical schools, Fuller has a large student body and a vibrant intellectual atmosphere. Fuller is recognized for its progress in psychology and intercultural studies. Because of the large influx of South Korean students, the school also offers a Korean-language M.Div. on its Pasadena campus. Some of the leading voices in evangelicalism and post evangelicalism graduated from Fuller, including pastors Rob Bell, John Piper, and Rick Warren. The faculty of Fuller includes past and present figures such as George Eldon Ladd, C. Peter Wagner, Glen Stassen, and Richard Mouw. Today, Fuller is a top choice for many Christian pastors and theologians, especially evangelicals.
Methodist/Ecumenical | Durham, NC | Established in 1926
Tuition: $20,701 per year
With its Methodist heritage and mainline Protestant tradition, Duke has a long record of intellectual rigor. Some of the best-known luminaries in Protestant academia have Duke PhDs on their CVs. Leading names are Stanley Hauerwas, Paul Griffiths, Warren Smith, and Amy Laura Hall. Duke Divinity School is known for pioneering thought in post liberalism, also known as Narrative Theology. Duke offers a strong option for those who wish to explore Narrative Theology or apologetics, especially on an advanced level.
Interfaith | Boston, Massachusetts | Established in 1839
Tuition: $17,580 per year
Boston University was founded as a Methodist university in the first half of the 1800s. Even today, the school is maintained by the United Methodist Church, although its theological influence has weakened. BU’s theological degrees are highly regarded, but don’t expect to get an exclusively Christian education here. Boston is known for its interfaith dialogue. Theology students may take classes from Jewish and even Muslim professors. BU expresses its vibe with tag lines such as “just bring your imagination,” and “carve out your own [trail].” Such a direction suggests that students will receive teaching that may or may not be rooted in biblical research or revelation. Some alumni include Norman Vincent Peale, Andy Crouch, and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Many graduates pursue careers in non-profit management, social work, ecological justice, advocacy, peacemaking, and interfaith dialogue.
Catholic | Notre Dame, Indiana | Established in 1842
Tuition: $36,650 per year
Notre Dame is a Roman Catholic school, which also welcomes evangelicals, Mormons, Muslims, or students of any faith. The school is decidedly religious, however, with more than 93% of the student body identifying as “Christian” and 80% Catholic. Notre Dame has one of the highest-regarded theology programs in the world, and actively supports many Church organizations and programs. The university itself is the seat of the Congregation of the Holy Cross, a major Catholic organization. The Department of Theology is considered to be “the heart of Notre Dame’s education in faith and reason.” Evangelical Christians who attend Notre Dame are respected for their beliefs, but can expect to be challenged by the overwhelming majority of Catholic professors and students. Those who wish to engage in early church studies and scholarly research will find Notre Dame to be beneficial, but it is not considered an ideal choice for those who are considering a pastoral ministry in a Protestant church.
Presbyterian | Princeton, New Jersey | Established in 1812
Princeton is one of the most reputable theological schools in the United States, and is aligned with the Presbyterian Church (USA). Princeton has gained recognition for its vast theological library, which is the second only to the Vatican’s. The school’s theological pioneering is so well known that a brand of Calvinism, known as Princeton Theology, is named after it. During the Fundamentalist-Modernist Controversy of the 1920s, the school was racked by internal and external pressure to adopt a more modernistic stance. The conflict resulted in the departure of some faculty and the founding of Westminster Theological Seminary, founded by J. Gresham Machen. Despite its wide influence, Princeton’s student body is intentionally small, with only around 500 students. The faculty list reads like a Who’s Who of conservative biblical scholarship, including such scholars as Bruce Metzger, James Moorehead, Geerhardus Vos, Emil Brunner, Charles Hodge, B.B. Warfield, and J. Gresham Machen. 40% of Princeton’s students are headed toward ministry in the Presbyterian Church (USA). It is, however, an excellent place for studying theology on an advanced level, regardless of one’s denominational tilt.
Interfaith | New Haven, Connecticut | Established in 1822
Yale Divinity School, part of Yale University, is one of the oldest and most famous centers of theological training. Although closely aligned with the Episcopal Church, Yale provides a nondenominational and interfaith training. As liberal schools go Yale is one of the most prestigious. One of Yale’s greatest contributions to Christian scholarship is their research of theologian Jonathan Edwards, a 1720 graduate of Yale College. The school maintains a primary source Edwards library. Yale has also made strides in the field of narrative theology.
Protestant | Nashville, Tennessee | Established in 1875
Tuition: $22,835 per year
Vanderbilt is considered one of the top five mainline Protestant schools. Although the school has no denominational affiliations, it was a major Methodist training center during its early days in the late 1800s. Today, many United Methodist ministers are still trained within the Divinity school, along with other denotations such as the PCUSA, Disciples of Christ, African-American Baptist, and United Church of Christ. During the 1960s, Vanderbilt Divinity School became a lightning rod for controversy, due to the school’s expulsion of an African-American student who participated in nonviolent protests. Today, the school has a strong reputation as a major research center.
Interfaith | Chicago, Illinois | Established in 1891
Tuition: $38,948 per year
The University of Chicago Divinity School is, according to the National Research Council, the number one school for religious studies. More theological professors hold graduate degrees from this school than any other divinity school in the country. The school possesses an impressive list of scholarly works, and an even more impressive list of professors, such as Margaret Mitchell, Michael Sells, and David Tracy. Students of a Christian persuasion are less likely, however, to be found within the lecture halls of University of Chicago Divinity School. Although the school was originally Baptist, it now has religious studies that cover the religious gamut — from Buddhism to Hinduism.
Baptist | Lynchburg, Virginia | Established in 1973
Tuition: $9,512 per year
Liberty University is largest Evangelical Christian university in the world, and its seminary is equally large. One of the reasons for the schools impressive size is its online school, which reaches more than 60,000 students globally. Liberty is, perhaps, best known for its conservatism. Often referred to as the “holiest university” Liberty is an unabashed supporter of conservative politics and evangelical theology.The school’s founder, the late Jerry Falwell, was the founder of the Moral Majority and a famous television evangelist. Today, the school welcomes students of various denominations, but serves mostly a Baptist constituency. Because of its Internet classes, Liberty has helped many pastors who would otherwise not have access, gain advanced theological training.
Presbyterian and Reformed | Glenside, Pennsylvania | Established 1928
Tuition: $6,570 per semester
Westminster was born out of the Fundamentalist Modernist controversy of the 1920s. As Princeton theologians careened towards modernism, a dissenter by the name of Gresham Machen distinguished himself as a defender of the truth. When it became clear that he could not keep Princeton pure, he started his own school — Westminster Theological Seminary. The school is known for its staunch Reformed position and Calvinist theology. It maintains close ties with the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, also founded by Machen. Several of the seminary’s greats are Tim Keller, Vern Poythress, Cornellus Van Til, Bruce Waltke, Carl McIntire, Harold Ockenga, and George Marsden. Westminster is an excellent choice of schools, especially for those in the Presbyterian or Reformed tradition.
Evangelical | Vancouver, British Columbia | Established in 1968
Tuition: $27,000 per year
When Regent College began, the goal of the founders was to provide advanced theological education to non-ministers. Today, however, Regent is providing theological training to many who lead churches, start congregations, and serve in overseas locations. As many as one-third of the students are from overseas locations. The theology of the school is evangelical. Several of the notable faculty members, visiting or emeritus, include Eugene Peterson, Gordon Fee, J.I. Packer, Bruce Waltke, and N.T. Wright. Regent is considered a top choice for many evangelicals.
Baptist | Louisville, Kentucky | Established in 1859
Tuition: $9,640 per seminary
Southern Baptist Theological Seminary is the flagship institution of the Southern Baptist Convention, which is the world’s largest Protestant denomination. The school’s current president, R. Albert Mohler, took leadership of the school in a time of major theological transition in the convention. Mohler determined to uphold the school’s historical biblical principles in spite of theological decline over the past several generations of leadership. Today, the school is well-known for its conservative theology and high educational standards. It still services the SBC with a large number of graduates, but trains students in other theologically conservative denominations and persuasions as well.
Evangelical | Chicago, Illinois | Established in 1886
Tuition: $9,552 per semester
Moody was founded by the famous evangelist Dwight Lyman Moody, whose preaching ministry spanned the globe. The founder’s vision was for the “education and training of Christian workers, including teachers, ministers, missionaries and musicians who may completely and effectively proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ.” Today, his vision has become a reality, with thousands of graduates ministering far and wide. The school’s publishing arm, Moody Publishers, also has an extensive reach. Although it is popularly known as “Moody Bible Institute,” Moody is a full theological seminary offering M.A., M.M., and M.Div. degrees. Moody also has a reputable online school, which provides training to many full-time pastors.
Dallas Theological Seminary
Evangelical | Dallas, Texas | Established in 1925
Tuition: $5,460 per semester
For many theological students, “Dallas” is synonymous with “dispensationalism.” One of Dallas Theological Seminary’s major contributions is their popularization of dispensationalism, a view of the Bible and theology that recognizes God’s various actions in different periods of history. The theologian Lewis Sperry Chafer founded the seminary with a view to instructing students in expository preaching. One of the seminary’s continuing contributions to academic theology is the publication of Bibliotheca Sacra, a quarterly theological journal. Notable graduates include Gregory Beale, Hal Linsey, Chuck Swindoll, Andy Stanley, Bruce Wilkinson, and Tony Evans. Though dispensational teaching is still a component of the school’s biblical understanding, they provide an excellent theological education for students from many evangelical theological positions.
Evangelical | La Mirada, California | Established in 1952
Tuition: $25,917 per year
Biola, an acronym for Bible Institute of Los Angeles, launched Talbot nearly fifty years after its founding. The school is named for a former president of Biola and seminary founder, Dr. Louis T. Talbot. The school was founded with a dedication to conservative evangelical theology, including an emphasis on inerrancy and pre-millenialism These emphases still stand, and Talbot has distinguished itself as a source of excellent theological training, especially in the areas of biblical exposition and apologetics. Well-known Talbot alumni include R. Kent Hughes, John MacArthur, and Josh McDowell.
Evangelical | South Hamilton, Massachussets | Established in 1969
Tuition: $17,610 per year
As one of the largest evangelical seminaries in the world, Gordon-Conwell has a notable influence among American evangelicalism, simply on account of its numbers. Founders A. J. Gordon and Russell Conwell were both Baptist ministers who both founded independent schools that later merged. In spite of its Baptist origins, Gordon-Conwell is clearly nondenominational today. They still subscribe to a conservative statement of faith that includes key evangelical conditions such as biblical inerrancy. Several evangelical leaders graduated from Gordon-Conwell including Mark Dever, Kevn DeYoung, Woodrow Kroll, and Tim Keller. Its faculty has included major figures such as Harold Ockenga, Gordon Fee, and Gregory Beale. Gordon-Conwell is a top tier choice for excellent biblical education.
Evangelical | Wheaton, Illinois | Established in 1860
Tuition: $7,044 per semester
Jonathan Blanchard was a social activist, anti-Masonite, abolitionist, pastor, and even a candidate for the presidency of the United States. One of his most enduring contributions was his founding of Wheaton College in 1860. The college, which has high ratings, also is an excellent choice for seminary. Although its founder was a Congregationalist with close ties to Wesleyan Methodism, the school is nondenominational. It is the alma mater of Billy Graham. Wheaton is best known as a top-tier undergraduate Christian school, but its theological studies programs are also well-known.
Evangelical | Multiple Locations | Established in 1897
Tuition: $14,634 per semester
Trinity Evangelical Divinity School is known by its acronym, TEDS. The school is operated by the Evangelical Free Church, a relatively small American denomination with Swedish origins. In spite of the small size of its parent denomination, Trinity is one of the largest evangelical seminaries. Trinity has received recognition for its advances in both Old and New Testament scholarship, due to the research and writing of faculty members such as Gleason Archer, D. A Carson, John Feinburg, and Grant Osborne. Several of Trinity’s notable graduates include Bill Hybels, Scot McKnight, Mark Noll, Jim, Wallis, and Ravi Zacharias. Trinity offers a range of excellent master’s degree programs as well as Ph.D. level training.