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What’s the Difference between Bible College and Seminary?

God called you into ministry. You need preparation to follow that call. For some, that preparation requires biblical and theological preparation. For others, preparation involves leadership skills. Is Bible study alone sufficient? Do you need more? What’s the difference between Bible college and seminary? What should you look for in your preparation to serve God faithfully?

Is Bible study alone sufficient?

Many believers have the idea that all they need is Bible study. Besides, the Holy Spirit will give me everything I need to do the work of ministry. Right? Yes and no. It is true that the Holy Spirit will lead and guide you in ministry. But, that truth does not mean you should not prepare! Indeed, the Holy Spirit can do a whole lot more through you if there is something to work with!!!

Everyone God calls into ministry should be involved in regular Bible study. This fact is a given. But a question must be asked: How do I properly study the Bible? This is where a Bible college or seminary plays an important role.

Difference between Bible college and seminary

What is a Bible college?

The difference between Bible college and seminary might be best explained by defining each individually first.

Bible colleges are undergraduate programs that have a unique focus on the Bible and a biblical worldview to their general education studies. In other words, you can get an Associates degree or Bachelor’s degree at a Bible college.

While you can often major in nursing, criminal justice, etc., the major focus of most Bible colleges is studying the Bible, doctrine, and professional skills needed in ministry. Courses include: Old Testament Survey, New Testament Survey, Doctrine, Life of Christ, Greek, Hebrew, as well as your basic general education courses like English, Math, and History.

Some Bible colleges are accredited (such as through ABHE, www.abhe.org), while others are not. The idea of accreditation is that a higher authority has validated the school, giving it greater worth. Many graduate schools will only recognize degrees from other accredited schools.

Bible colleges serve an important role in higher education. Obviously, you get the foundational teachings in Bible, doctrine, and ministry. But you also study grammar, history, and philosophy from a biblical worldview. Many students will attend a Bible college for their first two years (Associate degree) to get a biblical foundation before transferring to a university that trains them in a particular field, such as engineering, medicine, biology. The advantage to the student is that a Bible college is often significantly more affordable than a state university or private college.

Why seminary

What is a seminary?

Bible colleges and seminaries are similar, yet different. They both focus on Bible, Christian ministry, doctrine, etc. However the major difference is that Bible colleges are designed as undergraduate programs (Associate, Bachelor’s) whereas seminaries are graduate level (Master’s, Doctoral).

The other major difference is that seminaries normally focus more on leadership roles within ministry: pastors, worship leaders, missionaries, etc. Some students attend seminary before moving into a doctoral program in order to teach in biblical higher education.

Student holding books

What’s the Difference between Bible college and seminary?

Bible colleges require a high school diploma (or equivalent) for entry. Seminaries require a bachelor’s degree. Therefore, some students attend Bible college only to go on pursue greater studies at the seminary level. When this happens, they often get credit for courses already taken (such as New Testament Survey).

If you believe God has called you into ministry, then attending a Bible college and/or seminary is an important part of your preparation. While you could attend one and not the other, you may find a greater depth by attending both.

Much of that decision depends on what is required for the job or ministry you are pursuing. To be a pastor in your denomination, does it require a degree? If so, what kind? Are you preparing for ordination and need a better foundation?

The difference between Bible college and seminary may be summarized in one word: purpose. What’s the purpose behind your education?

Why is attending a Bible college is important?

It’s been said that the foundation is key to everything. Consider a house. If the foundation is strong, the house is strong. But a weak foundation leads issues all throughout the house. Attending Bible college is like building a firm foundation.

You could take general education courses at the local community college. Or, you can take them from a Christian leader with a biblical worldview. Sure, grammar is grammar. But the instructor makes a difference. Surely you know that the Bible is important enough to be studied from those who have dedicated their lives to it. The faculty at a Bible college are doing that very thing.

At Carolina College of Biblical Studies, our mission is to disciple Christ-followers, through biblical higher education, for a lifetime of effective servant leadership. If we can help you reach your ministry goals, let us know.

To learn more about Bible colleges, download our “9 Answers to Your Questions About Biblical Education” from our website (www.ccbs.edu).