Do semenaries require certain bachelor degrees?


I’m planning on transferring shortly to a university due to a career change, and I’m considering psychology for my career change. I’m 32. I’m curious about the archdiocesan seminary, but either way I need a BA. I’m a little confused if it matters much on what the BA is. I heard the traditional way was Philosophy. One Catholic university mentioned Religious Studies is probably better than Philosophy. I wonder if Psychology is worthwhile because if seminary doesn’t work out, at least I can get a career in psychology as a backup. The unfortunate thing is I don’t know if Psychology has any meaning towards theology.


Here’s my take: you can get whatever Bachelor’s degree you want. The only thing about it is, the bachelor’s degree you get could possibly have an effect on how many years you would spend in seminary. Since a certain amount of philosophy is required before you can enter the four years of theological study, if you were to get a philosophy degree at a good Catholic university, then you could have as little as 4 years of study left - theology. If you were to get a philosophy degree at a secular university, perhaps the seminary would accept some of the credits, and you would probably have to do 5 years of study before ordination. If you were to get a non-philosophy degree, then you would have 6 years of study before ordination - 2 years of Pre-Theology, during which you would study philosophy (and probably a few other little things), and then the 4 years of theology.

I wouldn’t worry too much about what subject your degree is in. People enter seminary from many different career angles/paths of study. I couldn’t really tell from your post how sure you are that you’re entering seminary, but if you’re not entirely sure yet, I’d say go for the psychology degree, and then if you decide to go to seminary, it will be fine - you’ll have a degree, which is the only specific requirement for entering (graduate) seminary.


It likely depends on the seminary, but I actually know very few priest that have a bachelors in philosophy or theology. Their degrees run the gamut and include things like sports medicine, music, business administration, and even a couple engineers. This is especially true for late vocations.

As bobballen_18 says it likely would just mean extra prep classes. One option would be to get the degree you want or need, but then stack in philosophy classes for all your general electives. You could at least get the foundational courses in that way. Another option would be to dual major in both.


Well put. :thumbsup: I agree. If you are not 100% sure that you are going to enter seminary, get the degree that would fit with your professional goals. At worst, it will tack on a year or two to your seminary studies. But then you’ll still have all that background in Psychology which – in my opinion – can only help make you a better priest.


Every priest that I know has a BA degree in philosophy (often in addition to another degree)

Ours grants BA’s. I know two men who went into seminary directly from High School. I know others who entered after receiving B.S. Degrees in Engineering.

What our seminary (Sacred Heart Major Seminary) is to provide seminarians with a BA in Philosophy and then a Masters of Divinity (M.Div) degee.

If a seminarian has a bachelors degree, that generally covers the basic courses, but they would still generally need to compete two years worth of study on Philosophy, receive their BA, and then continue on towards the M.Div in the Theology program

If someone enters in from High School, they will have to take two years of general liberal arts, two years of philosophy (all ending in the BA) and then the M.Div.

But unless the BA in Philosophy came from a reputable Catholic university, most seminaries would want to instruct the seminarians in philosophy themselves. Most of what passes as modern philosophy is incompatible with Catholic though. At best, you would receive credit for any historical philosophy taken ( Socratics, pre-Socratics). Scholasticism on forward would best be taught in a Catholic setting.


My understanding is that jobs in psychology/counseling are few these days. If it’s really your calling, then by all means don’t let a tight field stop you, but it’s good to know what you’re up against. I would talk to some people in the field now, and to career counselors to find out more, if you haven’t already.


One of my undergraduate majors was psychology. It’s tough to do anything in that field with just a bachelor’s degree (and they told us this upfront). You pretty much need to go on and get a Masters (at least) if you want to do anything directly having to do with Psychology. There are exceptions.

A BS in Psychology can lead to Masters level programs in a variety of fields, though: psychology (of course!), social work, counselling, etc. A Masters opens more doors. A PhD opens even more doors.


The requirement for starting your M.Div. (Theology) is a minor in philosophy and I think 9 credit hours in theology (double-check that). If you are majoring in liberal arts, psychology, education, etc. it is fairly easy to take such options. Some harder programs (engineering for example) wouldn’t let you.

For the record, I entered the seminary after 2nd year engineering.


Out of the priests and seminarians I’ve talked to.

My parish priest has degrees in philosophy and sociology.

My seminarian friend has a masters in electrical engineering.


Getting a Bachelor’s in Philosophy will only cut at most a year off your time in seminary, since you are required to have at least one year of seminary formation prior to entering major seminary (or as commonly called, Theology). If you get any Bachelor’s degree, you will likely need to go through two years of philosophical studies in seminary as preparation for studying theology, but, depending on the seminary and your vocations director and/or archbishop, having a degree in philosophy already might reduce your time to just one year before moving to Theology.

If you don’t already have a bachelor’s, you can enter seminary as an undergraduate studying philosophy, which would take the standard 4 years to complete, unless you already have some college credits to transfer.

I say this as one who entered seminary with a BS in engineering and had to go through 2 years of pre-theology, but knowing a few who didn’t have such a requirement.

My best advice, though, is talk to the vocations director in your archdiocese. He’ll be able to help you discern entering seminary better than a web forum. :thumbsup:


I’m trying to be kind of brief. If you want more detail, let me know.

A degree in philosophy is required of seminarians in order to study theology for Holy Orders. Any theologian who is not at least partially versed in philosophy is going to be at a disadvantage.

The logic of transfer credits can get really long-winded. Long and short: college is typically at least 2 years (prior degree), usually not more than 4 (no prior degree), and even a PhD in philosophy *may *still mean you spend 2 years in college formation. There are always some exceptions, but that’s kind of the norm. A recommendation to theology is a pretty big deal in seminary, not something to take lightly.

Now my personal opinion. This is opinion, not advice, keep in mind.
Psychology will not hurt–in a way, it will help. The undergrad, however, it is not terribly helpful since you can’t do anything with it (ref–2 family members). A masters in Psych can be helpful, especially for spiritual healing. However, a priest is not a psychologist or counselor, though there is some overlap.

If one is considering a vocation to priestly or religious life, I think it’s important to consider that first. If the bishop wants one to have a background in psychology, he will order a seminarian or priest to pursue that. It is impossible to discern a religious or priestly vocation outside of the religious community or seminary. If one is seriously considering a vocation, one needs to discern in that community/seminary.

Extra-ordinary (“outside the ordinary”) needs of the diocese are for the bishop, not the seminarian/applicant to decide, since the bishop is given the task and charism to do so. In order for the bishop to discern well, however, the faithful have the responsibility to offer their talents and interests to the Church and their pastors (esp. the bishop), to discern. So submit those interests and desires to the bishop (often through the vocation director), and let him discern.

A priest, especially, is not his own person. He is ordained to die for the Church. Plain and simple. His life is a sacrifice. Anyone who thinks otherwise has no business pursuing Orders. In the rite of ordination, he lays on the floor (often in a cruciform position if there is space), in witness to that truth. They used to cover him with a funeral pall, even! I think that part of this total surrender is the obedience to submit to God’s will first, and discern properly God’s will under the guidance of the Bishop and the seminary/community. I speak from my own experience in not doing this (pursuing a degree in computer art), that if God is truly calling you to a particular vocation, you will not be happy until you listen.

Entering seminary was the single best decision of my life. I hope and pray there’s another one coming up.

–Andrew Raczkowski
Seminarian, Diocese of Kalamazoo


This is from the Program of Priestly Formation, published by the USSCB, and is the standard for the formation of all priests secular and regular (orders) in the US. I strongly recommend that any man considering the priesthood read it.

  1. Theologates must require a bachelor’s degree or its equivalent
    from an accredited institution. Sufficient education in philosophy, which
    the Code of Canon Law states as a biennium, is understood in the United
    States to be at least 30 semester credit hours, plus the out-of-classroom
    work associated with each credit hour traditionally expected in American
    higher education. A minimum of 12 semester credit hours is required
    in appropriate courses of undergraduate theology. (The content of such
    courses is outlined in norms 178 and 179 under “Intellectual Formation—
    College Seminaries: Norms.”)

And just another thing, you say you are 32. That does not seem old, but once you consider formation time, you could be 40 before you can be ordained. Some dioceses have very strict age limits, so if you are even contemplating the priesthood, you should contact your vocations office now.

Peace be with you on your journey.


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