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Ministry Career Enrollments are Declining: 2013 Study

Current seminary enrollment patterns are complex, with the number of seminary students on the uptick during the 1990s but peaking in 2004. Since then, enrollment has stagnated. Meanwhile, nationwide, overall master's level program enrollments have increased at 10 times the rate of seminary enrollments, according to a study by Auburn Seminary published in the magazine InTrust, a journal of the Association of Theological Schools, a membership association of over 250 seminaries and schools of religion in the U.S. and Canada.

In addition, more seminary enrollees have undergraduate degrees and high grade point averages while fewer seminary enrollees are preparing for church or synagogue ministry careers, and more are preparing for non-faith community ministry opportunities. Interestingly, women's rate of enrollment has dropped off faster than men's, and while white enrollments have dropped since 2005 (by 17 percent), African American and Hispanic enrollments have grown (7 percent and 26 percent, respectively). Asian American and foreign enrollments have also declined (7 percent and 9 percent, respectively) from their peaks.

"The implications of these findings for theological schools are sobering. Few if any institutions can count on substantial enrollment growth in the next period. Powerful religious and social trends, including shrinking college enrollments now that the numbers of 18-year-olds has peaked, make an enrollment turnaround unlikely," the study concludes. 

For more on theological education enrollments, read our feature article, "Theological Education Rebounds, but Fewer Students Enroll." For more on seminaries and seminary enrollments, see "Best Resources for Researching Seminaries," and explore the subcategory "Research on Seminaries" under our "Research" tab.

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