What Is a Doctoral Degree in Theology?
A doctorate in theology uses an academic perspective to explore the nature of the divine, religious beliefs and practices, and the role of religion in society. Theology can explore spiritual traditions throughout the world, but most theology Ph.D. programs in the U.S. study Christianity and the Bible. Typical theology Ph.D. students include current and aspiring clergy, individuals seeking spiritual development, and students with an academic interest in theology.
Admission requirements for doctor of theology programs vary by school. Common requirements include a bachelor's degree from a regionally accredited institution with a minimum 3.0 GPA. Some programs also require a master's degree in divinity or its equivalent from a regionally accredited university. A liberal arts bachelor's or master's degree with a focus on history or philosophy provides a strong foundation for studying theology at the doctoral level.
Some programs require applicants to submit GRE or MAT scores. Other admission requirements may include letters of recommendation, a writing sample, a resume, or proof of moral or spiritual character.
Theology doctoral programs vary in length, but most students graduate in 2-7 years. Common courses include reading advanced scriptural research, advanced hermeneutics, the history of Christian doctrine, and global trends in spirit-empowered Christianity. Some programs offer concentrations in areas like biblical studies, practical theology, and church history. Doctorates in theology develop communication, interpersonal, research, and leadership skills.
A theology degree can provide a strong foundation for a variety of jobs, not just the ones listed below. Theology graduates gain critical thinking, communication, and interpersonal skills that are relevant to many fields.
The list below provides a selection of potential theology-related careers, including a few that might not immediately come to mind, like college professor, writer/author, and interpreter/translator. Some of the careers below require further study in other academic programs or certifications.
College Professors teach a variety of subjects at postsecondary institutions like universities, community colleges, and technical schools. They also conduct research, publish papers and books, develop instructional plans, assess student progress, and stay informed about changes in the field. Full-time, tenured professors typically devote more time to their research, while part-time or adjunct professors spend most of their time teaching students.
Most postsecondary teachers need a Ph.D. in their field, and many specialize in a subfield. Some colleges prefer professors with relevant work experience in their field of expertise. College professors typically need excellent critical thinking, writing, speaking, and interpersonal skills.
Writers and Authors create content for different types of media, like books, movies, blogs, websites, and magazines. They conduct research, write, revise, and work with editors. Writers and authors often specialize as content writers, biographers, bloggers, novelists, or copywriters.
Writers typically have at least a bachelor's degree. Many writers gain experience through both paid and unpaid internships or on-the-job training. They advance in their careers by building a reputation and publishing work. Many writers work for themselves. Important qualities include creativity, critical thinking, adaptability, and writing skills.
Interpreters and Translators translate information from one language to another. Interpreters deal with spoken or sign language, while translators work with written language. These professionals need to speak, write, and read at least two languages fluently; in the United States, one of those languages is usually English. Interpreters and translators also use their cultural knowledge to ensure the accurate interpretation of the original message.
Social and community service managers oversee community organizations and social service programs. They also manage workers who provide these services. Duties vary by organization, but social and community service managers identify necessary services, analyze data, plan outreach activities, and write proposals for funding.
Clergy professionals perform spiritual activities and conduct worship services for members of a religious denomination or faith. Job titles vary by religion; a few examples include rabbi, minister, priest, imam, and pastor. Clergy work for religious organizations, hospitals, home healthcare services, nursing care facilities, and schools, guiding and assisting members on moral and spiritual matters. Typical job duties include performing religious ceremonies, leading worship, offering counsel, and promoting spirituality.
Clergy professionals typically need at least a master's degree in a field like theology, but each religion establishes its own educational and training requirements. Clergy must be compassionate and skilled at communication, interpersonal relationships, and problem-solving.