Making academic progress - a suggested strategy

GCS offers several academic milestones. Students may proceed step-by-step from one to another, toward one of the degrees:

1. Master’s Level Courses – take courses as desired

2. Certificate of Theological Studies – four courses

3. Diploma of Christian Ministry – seven courses

4. Master of Pastoral Studies – 14 courses

5. Master of Theological Studies – 14 courses

6. Master of Divinity – 25 courses

Since all coursework for a master’s degree must be completed within ten years, and at least 14 courses are required for a degree, students who want to obtain a degree should plan on taking at least two courses per year.[1] We advise that you begin by taking program requirements rather than electives. Since a GPA of 2.7 is required for graduation, you should aim for a grade of B- or better in all your classes.

Most courses require you to log in to the website at least once or twice a week, either to participate in a forum or to submit a written assignment. Failure to do so may hurt your grade; see the respective courses for their policies on forum participation.

B. Suggested sequence

Most courses do not have formal prerequisites. However, your educational experience may be more enjoyable if you follow the steps given below:

1.  We recommend (but do not require) that you begin with the foundational courses:

  • BI501 Biblical Interpretation – to establish Bible study skills.
  • CM501 Foundations of Christian Ministry (formerly known as Pastoral Leadership) – to understand your strengths and weaknesses for service in the church.
  • The recommended theology course depends on what your goal is in GCS.
    • If your aim is the four-course CTS and you will take only one theology course, we recommend TH507, which is a survey of all theological topics through the writings of C.S. Lewis, who is fairly easy to understand.
    • If your aim is the seven-course DCM, we recommend TH503, which covers the theology of the church and the last things.
    • If your aim is a degree, we recommend starting with TH501.

2. Take courses depending on your interests and our schedule of courses. If you have no particular goal in mind, aim to fulfill the requirements of the Certificate first, and then meet the requirements of the Diploma of Christian Ministry.

3. After you have taken seven courses, decide whether you wish to seek a master’s degree, and which degree you prefer. All courses for the degree must be completed within the ten years previous to your graduation. Calculate how many courses you will need, how much time you will have, and how many courses you will need to take each year. If you can commit to that pace, and have a GPA of 2.7 or higher, then you may apply for one of the master’s degree programs.

    a. If your primary interest is theology, and you are willing to do a research thesis, you might wish to seek the Master of Theological Studies degree (14 courses).

    b. If your primary interest is pastoral work, you may wish to seek the Master of Pastoral Studies degree (14 courses).

    c. If you are interested in professional pastoral work, pastoral supervision, or further studies in chaplaincy or doctoral work, you might wish to pursue the Master of Divinity degree (25 courses). The MDiv is a considerable commitment. Since all work must be done within ten years, you would need to take about three courses each year, for ten years. Or if you study full-time, taking nine courses each year, you could finish the MDiv in three years.

    d. We suggest the following strategy: Even if the MDiv is your primary goal, aim to meet most of the requirements of the MPS or MTS first. As you near completion of those requirements, you will be in a better position to estimate whether you will be able to finish the MDiv within ten years. If you don’t think you can, then you can opt for the 42-unit degree as a good (and possibly transferrable) academic achievement. You may be able to resume your MDiv studies after that.

e. Aiming for the MPS or MTS might also be good if you want the MDiv but are able to take only two courses (6 units) each year. The first degree requires 42 units, so you could finish that in seven years. At that point you could “reset the clock” by getting the first degree, then transfer 36 units of that degree into the MDiv program and have up to ten more years to complete the remaining 42 units. If the requirements of the MDiv have changed, you will need to meet the requirements in effect at the time you resume your studies after the MPS/MTS. You will have taken at least 78 semester units over a span of 16 years or so.

4. You may also request transfer credit, if any, and request credit for relevant experiential learning. See our website for further instructions on those.

5. Choose your next courses to ensure that you will meet the requirements of the degree, including the required number of biblical studies courses, theology courses, church history, and ministry.[2]

6. Before you can register for a capstone course (CM549, TH519 or TM501), you must have earned at least 30 semester units, and you must pass a summative exam. Before you can register for the MDiv capstone, you must have at least 66 units, and pass a summative exam. See the syllabus of CM549, CM599, TM501, or TH519 for what that exam will include and how it will be administered.



[1] This can be reduced if the student has transfer credit or credit for previous learning.

[2] On online.gci.org, you can see an unofficial transcript of courses you have taken so far. Go to https://online.gci.org/live/ScriptContent/Index.cfm and login. Hover the cursor over the Education tab at top. A drop-down menu will appear; click on My GCS program course fulfillments. You may also discuss program requirements with our Registrar.

Last modified: Saturday, June 11, 2022, 10:02 AM