Most religious groups and denominations require a graduate professional degree from an accredited seminary or divinity school for entrance into the ordained ministry. The American Association of Theological Schools encourages prospective candidates to present a wide variety of courses in humanities, social sciences, language, and natural sciences which reflects a broad appreciation for the human community. There is no prescribed pre-theological curriculum, but students moving toward ordained ministry will find that courses in English, history, philosophy, psychology, religion, and sociology provide solid background for graduate courses related to ministry. Some students create their own individualized majors combining work in several departments, capped by an internship. Students considering ordained ministry should contact the offices of their tradition to secure any special recommendations for their course of study, and the steps to follow in order to be recognized as a candidate for ordination.
Most seminaries and divinity schools expect that applicants for the Master of Divinity degree are connected with a specific denomination. It is the candidate's religious tradition, not a school's affiliation, that confers ordination after completion of the degree. Therefore, students are encouraged to maintain their religious life while attending Cornell and may do so by volunteer service in area congregations, campus religious programs, summer opportunities for service and/or credit internships arranged by the Chaplain and the Department of Religion. The Chaplain of the College maintains active relationships with many theological schools and arranges for students to speak with representatives who come to campus. The Chaplain is available for discussions concerning the many dimensions of ministry and to assist students seeking admission to graduate theological schools. The Department of Religion also supports and advises students preparing for theological education.