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Online PhD in Theology: Distance Learning Doctorate Program Info

Get info about online Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) programs in theology. Read about program requirements and course topics, and check out career options.

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Essential Information

Online Ph.D. programs in theology are available, but they typically include some in-person components. For example, students may be required to come to campus for the dissertation phase of their program to conduct research and take examinations. They may also need to come to campus for short 1- to 2-week residencies each semester. A Master of Divinity is typically required for admission; however, those with other types of master's degrees may be able to apply after completing additional coursework. Another common requirement is endorsement letters from a church or ministry. Some programs even require a recommendation letter from the applicant's spouse.

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Ph.D. Programs in Theology

Individuals aspiring to enter the clergy or teach at a seminary, college or university find a Ph.D. program in biblical or renewal studies to be a good foundation. Comprised of religious and philosophical studies, the curriculum covers such topics as New and Old Testament, bible exposition and global Christianity. Seminars, readings and research culminate in a student's dissertation. Prerequisites include a master's degree in a related field, such as religion or philosophy. Some programs require a degree of proficiency in Hebrew and Greek.

Information and Requirements

Theology Ph.D. programs require around 37-48 credit hours, which may be completed within 5-10 years. This timeframe takes into consideration courses, research and exams. At the end of the program, students must pass written and oral examinations and defend their dissertation. Some online programs may require short-term visits to campus in conjunction with online courses.

Students need computer and Internet access to use the online class management systems. Instructors combine traditional texts with audio and video presentations. Classmates and instructors communicate by telephone, e-mail and online chat rooms.

Course Topics

Graduate seminars highlight ancient and modern theology, religion, philosophy and bible studies. Seminars build upon and add to philosophies broached in undergraduate studies. A bulk of a Ph.D. candidate's coursework involves research for the dissertation.

Scripture Interpretation

This course gives students a thorough and comprehensive understanding of the Bible as religious doctrine. Students look closely at the canon's diversity, interpretive outcomes perception in contemporary society.

Principles and Methods of Historiography

Students look at the various methods and principles of the art of historiography. They learn about the process of recording history in a written document and necessary skills for completing dissertation research and writing.

Politics and Religion

The course aims to give students an understanding and analysis of political theologies from a religious perspective. Students also learn about the history of the relationship between politics and religion, as well as current trends and cultural temperatures, with a particular focus on Christianity.


Career Information

Graduates with a Ph.D. in Theology have a variety of career choices, including professor, youth pastor, priest or director. A 2015 report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics showed median annual salaries for professors of philosophy to be $66,380, while clergy earned $44,250.

Online Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) programs in theology are an option for those who desire to work as clergy or teach theology. Courses typically cover the bible, religion in politics and global Christianity; students must be present for dissertation work and internships.

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