PhD in Theology Program Information

If you want to study theology at the highest level, you can apply to a doctoral program. Learn more about what this entails and what you can do with your degree after graduation.

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Essential Information

A Ph.D. in Theology is the terminal degree for the religious studies discipline. Doctoral programs in theology tend to focus on the Christian religion, exploring its practices, institutions, and texts, with opportunities for specialization in areas such as the New Testament and systematic theology. In terms of training, most programs emphasize research and critical reflection, and students must successfully defend a dissertation prior to graduation. Students may also be required to fulfill a teaching requirement, since most graduates pursue careers in academia.

In order to apply for a Ph.D. in theology, students must have previously completed a Master of Divinity (MDiv) or similar master's degree, and they may be required to show that they are skilled in speaking a foreign language.

Ph.D. in Theology

Applicants to theology Ph.D. programs typically need a Master of Divinity for admission, though some schools will accept students who have master's degrees in closely related areas, such as religion, philosophy and theology. Some programs may even accept a bachelor's degree for admission. In addition, students will likely be required to demonstrate their proficiency in at least one foreign language, such as Hebrew, Latin or Greek.

Initial coursework in the program is generally focused on the history of biblical and theological studies. Students then develop individual programs based on their specific interests. Common courses include:

  • Women and the Church
  • Spirituality and psychology
  • Christian philosophy
  • Virtues and ethics
  • U.S. theology

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

Graduates with a Ph.D. in Theology commonly pursue teaching positions within colleges and universities. However, programs with pastoral components can prepare graduates for positions in church administration.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that the annual median wage for clergy members in May 2015 was $44,250 ( For religion and philosophy teachers at postsecondary schools, the median income was $66,380 per year, as of 2015. Employment for religion and philosophy teachers is expected to grow by 12% between 2014 and 2024.

In summary, a Ph.D. in Theology provides students with the theoretical and research training they need for careers in academia or the clergy. Some programs offer areas of specialization for advanced learning, and some may even require proficiency in a foreign language prior to admission.

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