A Doctor of Divinity is an honorary degree. The title is bestowed to individuals who have devoted their lives to theological pursuits or community betterment. In comparison, a traditional doctoral program in divinity, such as a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Divinity, can provide scholars with advanced knowledge and expertise in a particular aspect of religious study. These programs, which are typically offered through universities and theological seminaries, emphasize independent research and culminate in a publishable dissertation. They usually take five to seven years to complete.
Students can also earn a Doctor of Theology (ThD), which focuses on the application of theological teachings to religious communities. Specialization options in these programs include religious ethics, history of Christianity, and history of Judaism. Like PhD programs, ThD programs require students to conduct independent research and publish a dissertation prior to graduation.
In order to apply, students must hold a bachelor's and a master's degree program in divinity, history, religious studies or a similar field. Many schools also require PhD students to display reading competence in at least two languages other than English.
Doctoral Programs in Divinity
Coursework typically depends on the student's particular area of interest. Possible course titles include:
- Theology, philosophy and sociology of religion
- Religious ethics
- Introduction to Judaic civilization and elementary Hebrew
- Gospel studies
- History of Christian thought and modern Christianity in America
- Religious ideologies and utopias
Employment and Salary Information
The majority of students who graduate from doctoral programs in divinity pursue academic research positions at colleges and universities. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that philosophy and religious teachers held about 23,820 jobs in the United States in 2015, with an average salary of $75,140. Those with PhDs were expected to have the best job prospects, and employment for postsecondary educators overall was predicted to rise by 13% between 2014 and 2024, which is faster than average.
Although a Doctor of Divinity is an honorary degree, students who are interested in intensive religious studies have the option of enrolling in either a PhD or ThD program, both of which provide adequate preparation for academic research positions.