Academic Preparation

Choice of Seminary

Choosing a Seminary

Similar to choosing any institution of higher education, choosing a seminary is a personal decision which balances location, cost, spiritual and community life, and strength of academic and theological program, among other factors. However, to help guide PC(USA) inquirers and candidates to helpful preparation for ministry in the Reformed tradition and ensure the opportunity to meet the academic requirements of the Book of Order, the CPM should approve inquirers seminary choices before enrolling.

A list of PC(USA) Seminaries can be found here.

Contact the CPM for a list of often approved and local non-PC(USA) seminaries or for recommended distance learning programs.

What if I am already in Seminary?

If a student is already enrolled in a non-PC(USA) seminary or has graduated from a particular seminary before enrolling as an inquirer, the CPM will work with the student to see where his/her prior coursework overlaps with PC(USA) and CPM expectations and if additional coursework is needed. Inquirers and candidates may be required to take additional classes at their own expense at a PC(USA) or other CPM approved seminary.

Course Requirements

The PC(USA) and Donegal Presbytery are committed to high academic standards and rigorous preparation of our clergy, historic with the Presbyterian tradition. We are also committed to providing a diverse educational experience to equip future pastors for the changing needs of the church in today’s world.

The following are the master’s level course requirements for the PC(USA) and Donegal’s CPM. These courses are required to provide background in bible, theology, the Reformed tradition, and basic pastoral skills necessary to become a teaching elder. They may be taken as part of or supplemental to one’s seminary requirements for the M.Div degree:

(A printable checklist of the required and recommended courses can be found on the forms/Documents page. The CPM suggests that inquirers and candidates keep a master copy of the checklist and update it each semester of seminary.)

  • 1 Course in Hebrew
  • 1 Course in Greek
  • 1 Course in Old Testament with exegesis in the original language
  • 1 Course in New Testament with exegesis in the original language
  • 1 Course in Preaching
  • 1 Course in Pastoral Care
  • 1 Course in Reformed Theology
  • 1 Course in Reformed Worship and Sacraments
  • 1 Course in Reformed Polity
  • 1 Course in Reformation History (or demonstrated former coursework)
  • 1 Course in Christian Education
  • 1 Unit Clinical Pastoral Education
  • At least one year (two semesters) of Field Education in a PC(USA) Congregation

Donegal’s CPM also strongly recommends that inquirers and candidates take or work toward:

  • A course that focuses on the Book of Confessions
  • A course in Ethics
  • A course that connects “church and society”
  • A second year of supervised field education in the setting of one’s choice
  • Demonstration of advanced competency in an area of one’s passion/ choice

The CPM does reserve the right to ask a student to take additional coursework in an area(s) where it is felt further experience and education is needed before moving an inquirer or candidate further along in the preparation process.

Students should submit a copy of their academic transcript to the CPM at the conclusion of each academic year and at any time upon request.

Field Education Expectations

As noted in the course requirements, candidates and inquirers are required to complete at least one year of field education and one unit of Clinical Pastoral Education. Such practical experiences are critical for developing both skills for ministry and pastoral identity.

Internship in a PC(USA) Congregation

Those under care of the CPM must complete at least one year (two semesters or time equivalent) of supervised field education in a PC(USA) congregation. This internship should be in a setting different than one’s home church. Field education reports from both the student and the supervisor should be submitted to the CPM upon completion of the internship.

Clinical Pastoral Education

Inquirers and candidates must also complete a minimum of one unit of Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) at an accredited ACPE or CPSP site. Units are typically 400 hours completed over an intensive summer or extended over an academic year, and are usually in hospitals or chaplaincy settings. Students are encouraged to plan well in advance for when CPE can best be accommodated into their schedules and for financial planning. CPE evaluations should be submitted to the CPM upon completion of the unit.

Connect to the Association for Clinical Pastoral Education (ACPE) website here. For the College of Pastoral Supervision and Psychotherapy (CPSP) website, click here.

Students who do not believe they can fulfill the CPE requirement in an accredited setting for exceptional reasons should contact their liaison and the CPM chair to discuss the possibility of appealing for a self-designed CPE alternative. This request must be filed at least a year in advance of when the alternative CPE would begin. The CPM will not waive the CPE requirement, nor will all appeals be granted, but will work to accommodate students as reasonably as possible.

Standard Ordination Examinations

In order to be certified as ready for ministry, inquirers and candidates are expected to pass five Standard Ordination Examinations. Students must register online at the PC(USA) OGA website. Payment is due upon application, and is the financial responsibility of the student.

Bible Content Exam

The Bible Content Examination is ordinarily taken early in the seminary process, generally during either the first or the second year of theological education, or their equivalents (G-14.0310). It is offered twice a year. Persons taking the Bible Content exam need not be under the care of a presbytery, and no certification from the CPM is required.

Senior Ordination Exams

The other four Senior Ordination Exams are designed for inquirers and candidates who have completed the equivalent of two full-time years of theological education. The purpose of these exams is to assist the CPM and presbytery in assessing readiness for ministry in both academic preparation and the ability to use one’s knowledge and experience effectively in practical ministry settings. The tests are designed to determine how well an inquirer/candidate understands and can function within the framework of Reformed Theology. Candidates are expected to demonstrate working knowledge of the Book of Confession and the Book of Order.

The CPM must give written authorization for inquirers/candidates to take these examinations. These 4 these exams will be offered quarterly each year. Inquirers/ candidates must pay attention to the registration deadline, which is usually four weeks before the examination. Ordinarily, all four examinations are taken at once. Inquirers/Candidates who are taking these exams for the first time must have written permission from the CPM to write fewer than four exams.

**Students that require or believe they qualify for testing accommodations for the exams should contact their liaison at least six months prior to taking their first exam so that proper documentation may be obtained and filed.


This section is adapted from:

Final Assessment

When a candidate is ready to move to be Certified Ready for Examination/ to Receive a Call, he/she will undergo a final assessment with the CPM. This assessment aims to evaluate one’s readiness to receive an ordained call through evidence of academic preparation, leadership skills, spiritual development, self-awareness, overall growth, and ability to articulate an emerging call. In addition to the final academic transcripts, the following three documents will guide conversation at the Assessment:

Draft of Personal Information Form (PIF)

Before receiving approval to circulate a PIF, a candidate will provide a draft of the PIF to the CPM. Information for beginning a PIF can be found here.

Statement of Faith

The faith statement should be no more than two pages. It may include images and font choice is the decision of the writer. A faith statement should aim to include:

  • understanding of the triune God
  • understanding of each person of the God-head
  • understanding of the saving work of Jesus Christ
  • understanding of the Church
  • understanding of Scripture
  • understanding of the Sacraments
  • understanding of eschatology
  • understanding of humanity and sin.

Please note: a full 2-page statement of faith is more than the allotted characters in the Faith Statement section of the PIF. The new PIF format does allow for documents to attach to the PIF, for which a longer statement or one with images may be uploaded.

Ministry Portfolio

During the course of the last projected year of seminary or candidacy, the candidate, with the help of her/ his liaison, will develop a professional portfolio to aid in his/ her call search process.

Given the current call search process in the PC(USA) the committee believes a well-rounded professional portfolio, in addition to the standard PIF, will aid the candidate in conversations with PNCs and in exploring other forms of ministry. A portfolio is a reflection of who you are and who you are becoming as a pastor. It showcases your unique skills and passions. The ministry portfolio is your chance to express yourself as a candidate for ordination beyond demographic information and essays provided in the standard call forms.

Guidelines for the Ministry Portfolio are found in the attached document here.