Located in the heart of Manhattan is New York City’s Union Theological Seminary, established with the help of the Presbyterian Church in 1836 to provide “rigorous scholarship and a practical dimension to theological education”. Standing today as the oldest and, perhaps, most prestigious non-denominational seminaries in the country, providing graduate education at one of the few seminaries left in the country to be independent of any university or religion(though it does hold some affiliation with Columbia University).
Union’s home in New York City make it the ideal place for religious learning, with the ability to serve at “60 churches and 30 social services”. Believing that “large cities furnish many peculiar facilities and advantages for conducting theological education”, the clergy and lay church leaders dropped their new seminary right in the busy heart of NYC, then moved it in 1910 to its present location to be nearer other major New York universities and institutions. Columbia, in particular, holds several associations with Union, sharing three senior faculty members (they hold simultaneous positions at both Union and Columbia’s Religious Department) and facilities (as enrollment has seen some decline, Columbia has leased part of Union’s campus).
Today, those Protestant roots continue to provide a solid, Christian-based education for the student body of about 280, all from a diverse background, but sharing a desire to become educated servants and leaders for their communities. Championing the both “the freedom to learn and the freedom to teach”, things Union sees as critical to all churches in the new present we live in, the urban context allows not only access to educational resources, but also gives students the chance to put their desire to help into immediate use, allowing experiential, hands-on work in one of the most needy cities in the world, but with no distance education programs.
Graduate degree programs for Masters and PhD seekers are offered at Union, with joint degree programs with foster parent Columbia University also available. Currently, there is a Master of Divinity degree, a M.Div./Master of Social Work dual degree (with Columbia, in one four year program), a two year Master of Arts degree (with options like Christian Ethics, Psychology&Religion, and Theology and the Arts), and a Master of Sacred Theology degree that offers both a general option (for those looking for just advanced study/knowledge) and a research degree (for those with a better grasp of languages and looking to do research/fieldwork ending in an original thesis).
Union also offers a Doctor of Philosophy degree, a program that includes work towards the intermediate Master of Philosophy, which must be completed at the seminary. The Philosophy PhD program is divided into 4 areas: History, Bible, Theology, or Practical Theology, with further disciplines in each area (e.g. New Testament or Old Testament Bible work).
Other joint degrees with Columbia include an MA in Religion, as well as a PhD in Religion, both stamped with the oftentimes necessary work “University” (as well as “Columbia”), which is especially important to those looking to hold teaching positions. In addition, there are Special Study Opportunities at Union, including credit for Master’s level private study (subject to approval), tutorial work, studying abroad, and their January Intercession, with the month being used as a short study term designed to allow for research, reading, or even two week “travel study” seminars.
Providing a graduate religious education in a metropolitan setting, Union offers its students the chance to study at a renowned seminary located where it is needed the most.