Master of Divinity Degree

Starr King’s M.Div. degree prepares people for vocations in:

  • Parish ministry
  • Community ministry
  • Religious education ministry
  • Chaplaincy
  • Related forms of religious leadership in diverse religious traditions

The M.Div. degree meets the graduate-level educational requirements for fellowship as a Unitarian Universalist minister, certification as a Chaplain (see the Association of Professional Chaplains at, as a Pastoral Counselor (see the American Association of Pastoral Counselors at and ordination in a variety of other religious traditions and interfaith contexts (as determined by the relevant bodies in any given religious tradition or context). Starr King’s M.Div. program welcomes Unitarian Universalists, Muslims, Buddhists, Wiccans, Jews, Christians, Hindus, Religious Humanists, practitioners of Indigenous Spiritual traditions, Quakers, spiritual seekers, and people with multiple religious belongings and hybrid religious identities. Each M.Div. candidate meets the learning outcomes and degree requirements through a personalized educational plan, designed in consultation with your faculty advisor in response to your gifts, challenges, life experiences, religious tradition(s), communities of accountability, and vocational calling. You can complete the M.Div. degree in three to four years of full-time study, or up to six or seven years of part-time study.


Starr King’s M.Div. degree program aims to prepare spiritual leaders with the knowledge, professional skill, and personal capacities to:

  • Create just and sustainable communities that counter oppressions
  • Call forth compassion, wholeness and liberation
  • Cultivate multi-religious life and learning


  • A minimum of 90 units of credit (at least 22.5 units of which must be completed in residence in Berkeley)
    • Conducting one-quarter of the degree program in high-residency mode is an approved exception to ATS Educational Standard, section ES.

  • Three required core intensives (students who matriculated before August 2013 must complete an ECO requirement only)
    1. The Educating to Counter Oppressions (ECO) Intensive
    2. The Multireligious Intensive
    3. An Intensive in Unitarian Universalist Ministry or in Spiritual Leadership
  • Participation in two or more August Symposia (optional, but encouraged,  for students who matriculated before August 2013)
  • A portfolio conference
  • A combination of coursework, fieldwork, independent study, experiential learning and special projects to achieve competency in  Eight Threshold areas:
    1. Life in Religious Community and Interfaith Engagement
    2. Prophetic Witness and Work
    3. Sacred Text and Interpretation
    4. History of Dissenting Traditions and the Thea/ological Quest
    5. Spiritual Practice and the Care of the Soul
    6. Thea/ology in Culture and Context
    7. Educating for Wholeness and Liberation
    8. Embodied Wisdom and Beauty


Active and sustained consultation between advisor and candidate is necessary for the depth and breadth of a Starr King M.Div. degree to be achieved.  With the guidance and approval your advisor, as a Starr King degree candidate you develop and complete a personalized educational plan that engages you in relational/constructive learning, drawing on multiple modes of teaching and learning. The plan achieves structure through the flow of the academic year, with its rhythm of in-person intensive periods in Berkeley in January and August, and flexible options during the fall, spring, and June-July summer periods during which time you may be studying in or beyond Berkeley—in your  home community or in a site around the globe. The plan achieves educational coherence through the framework of three required Core Intensives, the annual August Symposia, and the Eight Thresholds in which you must acquire competency. The plan adapts to your specific gifts, challenges, culture, context, religious tradition(s), communities of accountability, and vocational calling as you chart a personalized course of study, making use of diverse modes of teaching and learning, including learning from life experience integrated with theological studies.


We are the only GTU member school offering a distance learning M.Div.  Up to 2/3 of your degree credits may be completed in low-residence: online, immersions and through field work. Each M.Div. candidate’s educational plan must include a minimum of 30 units of in-person course work in Berkeley, as well as participation in-person in orientation at the beginning of your course of study,  and in-person advising (along with virtual advising) at points all along the way.   The residency requirement can be met by coming to Berkeley for the August and January intensive periods, during which time you can take required and elective intensive courses, participate in the Symposia and meet on-line instructors (August only), enjoy opportunities for in-person community building, spiritual practice, and shared worship experiences with students and faculty, and schedule face to face meetings with your advisor. The residency requirement can also be met by moving to Berkeley for all or part of your degree work, which affords you a rich opportunity to participate in creating the Starr King Berkeley in-person community.  In Berkeley, you will be able to take August and January intensives, participate in the August Symposia, take fall and spring semester-long courses at Starr King and through the Graduate Theological Union and related institutions, and more.


Beginning with students matriculating in August 2013, M.Div. candidates are required to complete three core intensives.  The required core intensives  provide a foundational engagement with the degree program’s learning goals, introduce approaches to relational/constructive learning, offer ways to integrate spiritual practice and professional development with the scholarly study of religion, and build a community of learning. The core intensives are offered as week-long intensives in August and January, with advance and follow-up work:

  • The ECO Intensive, (August 2013 and 2014) introduces students to “educating to create just and sustainable communities that counter oppressions”
  • The Multireligious Intensive  (January 2014 and 2015) introduces students to “multireligious life and learning.”
  • The Ministry/Spiritual Leadership Intensive can be taken in one of two modes:  the UU Ministry Intensive  (January 2014, 2015) is specifically for candidates for UU ministry;  the Spiritual Leadership Intensive (January 2015), is oriented to diverse forms of religious leadership in a variety of religious and spiritual traditions.   M.Div. students may take both modes if desired.


Starr King’s Eight Thresholds engage M.Div. candidates in developing their abilities to perform the classic roles of ministry and religious leadership (such as ritual and worship leader, preacher, teacher, prophetic activist, spiritual care giver, congregational leader, religious scholar and thea/ologian) as reflective practitioners who integrate into their work the knowledge and skills gained through the classic disciplines and fields of theological and religious studies (such as study of sacred scriptures, history of global religious traditions, theological methods and approaches, social ethics, psychology of religion, ritual and liturgical studies, spirituality studies, organization theory and systems theory, educational philosophies, and more). Starr King emphasizes engagement with the Thresholds through a multi-religious, counter-oppressive lens, inspiring new insights and generating new forms of ministry and spiritual leadership. Engaging with each threshold also requires you to deepen personal qualities and habits for successful spiritual leadership and/or ministry, such as mature judgment, self-awareness, spiritual practice, integrity, responsibility, sensitivity and ethical discernment. The Thresholds overlap and intersect with one another in multiple ways.  As you work with them, in dynamic interaction with one another, you develop a matrix of knowledge and skill that will enable you to move forward in the world equipped to offer ministry, serve as a chaplain or spiritual leader in ways that will

  • Create just and sustainable communities that counter oppressions
  • Call forth healing, wholeness, compassion and liberation
  • Cultivate multireligious life and learning


Through the Starr King M.Div. program people of diverse faiths are formed for ministry and religious leadership in a community of multi-religious life and learning.  Starr King students are called to become ministers, scholars, and religious leaders who can proactively offer life-giving alternatives to conflict among global religious traditions, and who can lead people of diverse religious perspectives and traditions to work together to build just and sustainable communities that address critical issues facing the world: global climate change, morphing forms of racism, legacies of violence and economic injustice. In fulfilling this calling, Starr King invites attention to counter-oppressive practices and approaches.  The School lifts up under-represented voices and topics in multi-religious work, such as religious and ethnic minorities within traditions, as well as transgender, queer, and feminist and womanist perspectives. While attending to critical points of under-representation, the accent is on creative and joyful expressions of multi-religious interchange and community. Teaching and learning at Starr King foster understanding of how the world’s religious traditions have always been interacting with one another—influencing and shaping one another.  Starr King will engage you in forming a deeper understanding of these histories of relationship, and will empower imagination and creativity in response to present day challenges and opportunities. Starr King’s distinctive emphasis on multireligious, counter-oppressive education embodies Unitarian Universalist principles and sources, which include:

  • Respect for the interdependent web of all existence
  • The inherent worth and dignity of every person
  • Justice, equity, and compassion in human relations,
  • The goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all
  • Wisdom from the world’s religions which inspires us in our ethical and spiritual life
  • Words and deeds of prophetic people which challenge us to confront powers and structures of evil with justice, compassion, and the transforming power of love
  • Direct experience of that transcending mystery and wonder, affirmed in all cultures, which moves us to a renewal of the spirit and an openness to the forces that create and uphold life


Your personalized educational plan enables you to achieve competency in the Eight Threshold areas through multiple modes of teaching and learning:


  • Starr King online, hybrid, and residential courses, fall and spring semesters
  • Starr King Symposia and intensives in August and January
  • Starr King immersions, offered on occasion in sites around the globe
  • Graduate Theological Union courses offered in residential, online and intensive formats – open to all SKSM students through the free, cross-registration system
  • University of California courses – open for free to all SKSM degree students

Field Education, Practice Teaching, and Internships

  • Parish internships in Unitarian Universalist congregations
  • Field Education in religious communities, youth work, justice and educational organizations, and community sites
  • Clinical Pastoral Education in hospitals, prisons, and social service institutions
  • Practice Teaching as a Hilda Mason Teaching Fellow—designing an offering a course through Starr King, a congregation, or a community organization
  • Field education and internship experiences are enhanced by required participation in theological reflection

Independent Study and Advance Research Projects

  • Special Reading Courses
  • Research Projects under the direction of SKSM core faculty

Experiential Learning

  • “Write Ups” for credit of significant learning experiences and activities that advance the learning goals of the degree programSome examples:
    • Creative projects in religion and the arts – producing a film, studying music, writing a play
    • Keeping a journal while giving long-term care to a family member or friend who is ill or incapacitated
    • Participating in a spiritual practice or a program of spiritual direction
    • Conferences, workshops, and courses offered by organizations and educational institutions outside of Starr King, the Graduate Theological Union, and UC Berkeley


M.Div. candidates may take up to 30 units of course work through Starr King and GTU on-line and hybrid courses, enabling you to pursue an SKSM M.Div. while remaining in your home community, while meeting your residency requirement through August and January intensives.   Students living in Berkeley and the greater San Francisco Bay Area also can integrate online and hybrid courses into their personal educational plan, maximizing flexibility to combine graduate study with work schedules and family needs.


In addition to course work (in diverse modes—on-line, hybrid, intensive, and semester-long residential options), your M.Div. educational plan may include study through fieldwork, internships, Clinical Pastoral Education, practice teaching, independent projects, and experiential learning. Fieldwork becomes field education through participation in group reflection on experience in the field.  Fieldwork reflection groups convene each semester in hybrid modes (SKYPE participation allowed).  Full and part-time parish internships are arranged with congregations across the continent, and are augmented by a Parish Intern Reflection Group and a January Parish Internship Conference in Berkeley which brings interns, teaching ministers, and Starr King faculty together for two days of conversation and learning. Formal Clinical Pastoral Education opportunities are an option for M.Div. candidates, and a requirement of preparation for Unitarian Universalist ministry.


Starr King School evaluates M.Div. students through written evaluations rather than letter grades.  Instead of ranking students in comparison with one another in a mode of competition, instructors assess instructors will evaluate you on your individual merit, and your achievements in relationship to the stated learning goals of the course or learning experience, your  contribution to a relational learning environment and to “education that builds just and sustainable community that counters oppressions and cultivates multi-religious life and learning.”  Faculty and field work supervisors will give you critical feedback and guidance on areas of needed improvement, as well as praise and affirmation for significant strengths and accomplishments. Students, in consultation with their advisor, may request a letter grade for a course in addition to a written evaluation.  When a letter grade is requested, the instructor has discretion to establish the basis on which a letter grade will be determined.


Over the course of your study, you will assemble a portfolio of representative work and evaluations.  Midway through your degree program, you and your advisor will plan a Portfolio Conference.  You will invite two faculty members (one of whom is your advisor), a peer and a community representative (generally this will be a practitioner of the mode of religious leadership or ministry you are preparing for).  Your portfolio conference participants review the portfolio in advance, and then meet together for an hour with you to offer feedback and guidance on your preparation for ministry and/or religious leadership. The Portfolio Conference embodies the School’s understanding that every M.Div. candidate is accountable to a larger public and to the people with whom ghe will serve.


M.Div. candidates are afforded free cross-registration at all Graduate Theological Union member schools and the University of California at Berkeley.  You will be able to draw on Starr King and Graduate Theological Union courses, GTU-affiliated advanced centers for research and study, as well as course offerings, libraries, research institutes and faculty of the University of California, Berkeley. Candidates are encouraged to consult the Graduate Theological Union Course Announcement, posted at to consider the entire range of courses available through the GTU member schools and centers.  In addition to semester-long residential courses, and short intensives during the January Intersession, several schools offer online courses.   Students should check the GTU course announcement for current information.

  • American Baptist Seminary of the West
  • Church Divinity School of the Pacific (Episcopal)
  • Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology (Roman Catholic)
  • Franciscan School for Theology (through June 2014)
  • Jesuit School of Theology
  • Pacific Lutheran Theological School
  • Pacific School of Religion (Interdenominational)
  • San Francisco Theological Seminary (Presbyterian)
  • Starr King School for the Ministry
  • The Buddhist Institute
  • The Center for Jewish Studies
  • The Center for Islamic Studies
  • The Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies
  • The Center for Theology and the Natural Sciences


Entrance to the M.Div. program normally requires a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university, or an equivalent degree from a non-U.S. school.  The School may occasionally offer admission to a well-qualified applicant who has not completed a B.A. if the applicant shows evidence of capacity for graduate level work.  The School limits such admissions to no more than 10% of the student body.


Readiness is assessed through conversation with your advisor, who will determine if all your degree requirements have been met and the learning outcomes achieved, and will review your written request to graduate. In your request to graduate you will narrate and assess your learning achievements in each of the Eight Thresholds.  Assessment of readiness to graduate involves thoughtful discernment in consultation with your advisor, not only of your completion of explicit requirements but of your personal readiness—intellectually, spiritually, emotionally, psychologically, professionally, and practically—for the form of ministry, chaplaincy, or religious leadership for which you are preparing.  Upon approval of your advisor, your request to graduate is submitted to the core faculty for a vote. The core faculty will act on your request, and if approved will forward your name to the Board of Trustees. The M.Div. degree is awarded by vote of the Board of Trustees.


There are parallel tracks to becoming a fellowshipped or ordained ministry.  The M.Div. degree is one track.  The fellowshipping process, under the auspices of the Unitarian Universalist Ministerial Fellowship Committee (MFC) is a parallel track which you must pursue in addition to your M.Div. degree.  For information on the fellowship and ordination process of becoming a Unitarian Universalist ministers, contact:

  • Rev. David Pettee Ministerial Credentialing Director Unitarian Universalist Association 25 Beacon Street Boston, MA 02108-2800 617/948-6402

See Fellowshipping Advice for a description of the requirements for ministerial fellowshipping in the UUA. Visit the UUA credentialing page for more information.