Pittsburgh Theological Seminary

Bridging the Word and the World

10/14 2019

What is a MAPS? God’s Directions Through an Aptly Named Degree

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master of arts in pastoral studiesIn the 2004 classic National Treasure, main character Benjamin Gates discovers a secret invisible map on the back of a rather meaningful piece of paper, the Declaration of Independence.

At Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, the meaningful piece of paper that is the Master of Arts in Pastoral Studies, or MAPS, degree may likewise contain a hidden map. We just haven’t seen anyone take the time to look for one yet!

More than just an amusing (and perhaps illuminating?) acronym, the master of arts (MAPS) degree at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary is a two-year, flexible graduate degree program that prepares students for leadership in various ministry settings.

What is the MAPS degree?

Across these two years of study, students in the MAPS program will complete 48 course credits, participate in a year-long field education experience, and complete a degree-specific integrative final project. This master of arts degree offers a grounding in core disciplines mixed with the flexibility of electives that fit one’s interests.

Students in the MAPS program will blend study of Scripture, Christian history, and theology—forming a unique understanding of Christian ministry. Through field education, students will learn to exegete and interpret various contexts as the location of God’s mission, right here in the Pittsburgh area. The integrative final project will ask students to draw from completed coursework in a way that supports their ministerial/vocational objectives.

The MAPS degree at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary can lead students to any number of vocational placements—from pastoral ministry to chaplaincy to religious education to faith-based, non-profit work.

What can I do with a master or arts degree?

Students can also earn the Graduate Certificate in Urban Ministry concurrently with their MAPS degree studies. Merit and need-based financial aid are available.

Dr. Leanna Fuller, associate professor of pastoral care, expresses, “The MAPS program is an excellent choice for students who wish to combine the fundamentals of theological education with the flexibility to pursue ministry courses that suit their particular interests.”

In National Treasure, Gates follows his gut and an invisible map to find a hidden wealth. The MAPS we offer at PTS may not lead to a hidden treasure, but perhaps it is the direction in which God is calling you. Let PTS and the MAPS degree help you along your journey in discerning who God is calling you to be and what God is calling you to do.


Chris Taylor, MDiv ’19 and admissions counselor, shares about the master of arts in pastoral studies (MAPS) degree at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary. He first came to Seminary as a teen in the Miller Summer Youth Institute. After graduating from the University of North Carolina in 2015, Chris spent a summer in Acadia National Park and served as a youth director in Raleigh before moving back to his hometown of Pittsburgh to attend PTS. Chris has also been serving at Parkwood Presbyterian Church in Allison Park since 2017. You can often catch Chris watching Pittsburgh sports, Carolina basketball, reading a good book, or exploring the outdoors.

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