Degree useful for prospective Priest?


I’m currently discerning a call to Priesthood. However, at the minute, my health is not in a good enough condition for me to apply to and attend Seminary.
Therefore I have been contemplating the possibility of doing an online course (degree/diploma) in Theology and Philosophy.
I’m wondering would that be of any use to me, were I to go to study at a Seminary later, i.e would it shorten the length of my studies?
I know it would be no harm to have a degree, but I don’t want to spend time and money on it if I will just have to do it all again at Seminary.

If that is not recommended, I would love suggestions on some things I could do between now and my deciding whether or not to attend Seminary, e.g courses, reading lists, educational materials, etc.

All thoughts appreciated!


Just call the seminary and ask. It is likely that it differs from seminary to seminary.




In my diocese (Buffalo), no, it would not shorten the length of time spent in the seminary. This is because these studies were taken up while not under formation.

However, if you do not have a degree at all, then yes, it would shorten your studies, as those who do not have a 4-year diploma go to the college seminary first. Those that do have a 4-year diploma do 2 years in the Pre-Theology program at the major seminary. Degree doesn’t matter, so I would (personally) go for something you’re interested in, and can use in case the seminary doesn’t work out (I did Computer Science).:thumbsup:

…again, this is for my diocese, so your mileage may vary.:shrug:


Just to add to what Lamentation has already said, while a degree (in pretty much anything) is useful, doing a degree in theology would probably be more of a hinderance than a help - there are certain course you probably won’t take or will need to repeat and, if nothing else, it would put you out of sync (so to speak) with your classmates - the importance of the formation of these personal bonds is often overlooked and not definitely not something to be taken for granted.

Other than study, have you considered doing some (limited) voluntary or pastoral work (within the limits of your health of course)?


Most dioceses would not accept an online degree to shorten the length of formation.

I would talk with the vocations director of the diocese which you intend applying to (he is the representative of the bishop in such matters, and he and the bishop will collaborate on what seminary you’re assigned to). He may have some recommendations.


As others noted, check with your diocese. I would think that a business degree with an emphasis on management and/or finance would be very helpful. A lot of people don’t seem to understand that a pastor is the head of a fairly large business and he needs to understand what is going on.

Just my 2 cents.




I’m wondering whether a degree from a pontifical university will help. I could understand if a seminary did not accept a degree from a non-Catholic university, or even a Catholic university that is non-pontifical. But it seems that studying at a pontifical university would give you a better chance at them recognizing it. But I do not know. Also, personal dialogue is important so I don’t know how beneficial it would be to take online courses; learning theology and philosophy is best done with others is how I see it.

I think that getting a degree may be helpful, but it is not guaranteed to be. If you were to enter the Jesuits, for example, that may save you time from doing the undergrad degree in whatever it is you might want to do (assuming the Jesuits have a choice in the field they can choose). As you know, Jesuits are some of the most highly educated men in the Church. If you had a degree, say in biology, it might be easier for them to send you afterwards to do your master’s in the same field instead of a completely different one. So it depends on what kind of priest you’re looking to be; religious or diocesan.

If you got an undergrad degree in theology/philosophy before seminary, maybe you’ll be more likely to be allowed to go to grad school after formation or to teach at a high school while in seminary. If you’re entering The Order of Preachers, it might not hurt to have more theology under your belt.

But these are just guesses.


It likely wouldn’t. What needs to be understood is that formation for priesthood is not like studying to be a lawyer. In the end, the degree doesn’t matter, but the actual formation does.

Priestly formation is broken into four categories: academic, pastoral, human, and spiritual. Academic formation might be possible before admission to seminary studies, but the other three are very difficult outside of a seminary faculty. Even if someone is well-formed in these three other ways prior to their admission to seminary studies, it is very difficult to tell, and the faculty of the seminary (and by association, the diocese) must be reasonably sure of their formation before ordination.

At the most, with a degree in philosophy and profoundly good human, spiritual, and pastoral formation, a candidate may be able to skip Pre-Theology.

It is not possible for a candidate to skip the four years of Theological (major seminary) formation though, because the law of the Church states [with my emphasis]:

Can. 235 §1 Young men who intend to become priests are to receive the appropriate religious formation and instruction in the duties proper to the priesthood in a major seminary, for the whole of the time of formation or, if in the judgement of the diocesan Bishop circumstances require it, for at least four years.


This is very true. I have spent time working in a parish, and have seen that it would be very helpful for priests to have a background in business management and accounting or finance. Even if you don’t major in that field, minoring in management or finance or even just taking a couple of classes in those subjects would help you with many of the practical realities of being a parish pastor.


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