Exploring Higher Education Institution Administrators, Certificate Students, and Employer Perceptions of Religious Educational Certificates and Diplomas: An Embedded Qualitative Single-Case Study

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (Ed.D)


Higher Edu and Learning Technology

Date of Award

Fall 2018


For the student who might struggle to complete a 4-year degree, the certificate is a positive alternative that teaches skills applicable to a specific job and could lead to a sense of accomplishment in the completion of the degree. Unlike vocational certificates, certificate and diploma programs in religious higher education do not provide training for a specific job or career. Thus, it is difficult to know the purpose of these programs and if they are fulfilling that purpose. The purpose of this study was to examine and synthesize the perceptions of core stakeholders, particularly institution administrators, students, alumni, and potential employers, regarding religious educational certificates and their effectiveness for employability in the market. This assessment was accomplished by determining: (a) why students enroll in certificate and diploma programs within the field of theology; (b) how the perceptions of the institution administrators, students, alumni, and potential employers compare with regard to the purpose of certificate and diploma programs in theology; and (c) how the perceptions of potential employers, regarding the purpose of certificate and diploma programs in theology, affect the employability of students with those degrees as compared to students with a bachelor's, master's, or doctorate, or those individuals without formal theological education.The Certificate and Diploma in Ministry programs were studied at a specific institution. Purposive sampling (Creswell, 2012) was used to determine the various perspectives of religious educational certificates and diplomas. Those individuals surveyed were: (a) the institution administrators; (b) the alumni and current students of these programs; and (c) the potential employers in the form of churches associated with the institution. The data gathered for this study were obtained by conducting individual interviews with selected institution administrators; focus group interviews with alumni, current students, and affiliated church pastors; and collecting documents such as institution catalogs and other distributed materials, course schedules, and syllabi. The data collected were then organized and coded in order to develop themes. The overarching themes present in the data analysis were (a) students pursue these degrees to explore a calling, (b) students desire to be equipped for ministry, (c) students seek personal spiritual growth as an outcome of these programs, (d) these programs build confidence in both communication and pursuit of higher education, (e) these programs serve as gateway programming to higher degrees, and (f) the outcome of these programs is service in the church. The students indicated that the Certificate and Diploma in Ministry are meeting their needs as it relates to preparing them to serve effectively in the church and community. Participants indicated that any form of theological higher education will assist an individual to be equipped to serve the church in various capacities.


JoHyun Kim

Subject Categories

Education | Higher Education