Doctor of Philosophy

The Doctor of Philosophy degree of the School of Church and Family Ministries began in 1924 and is one of the oldest and largest of its kind in the nation. The School of Church and Family Ministries’ Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) degree is designed specifically for the preparation of highly specialized and competent professionals for leadership and teaching in the local church and in other ministry settings. The Ph.D. degree is conferred on the basis of high scholarship and research skill demonstrated by the student’s work during the period of research, examinations, and dissertation.

The degree represents advanced training for such fields of endeavor as:

  • Professors and administrators in institutions of higher education
  • Specialists in Christian Education in churches, denominational agencies, and schools
  • Specialists in Family Ministry, Women's Ministry, and Biblical Counseling
  • Missionaries serving worldwide in any of the above fields

Major and minor are selected at the time of application from the following list:

  • Administration
  • Biblical Counseling
  • Childhood Ministry
  • Family Ministry
  • Foundations of Education
  • Student Ministry

A minor may be taken in any of the above fields, as well as Women's Ministry and Adult Ministry.


A. Entrance Requirements

  • General Seminary Admission: Applicants entering Southwestern Seminary for the first time or those returning after more than three years are required to complete all general admission application procedures with the Office of Admissions. Southwestern graduates must update their general seminary application with the Office of the Registrar.
  • Educational Foundations: An earned bachelor's degree from an accredited college or university and a master's degree from an accredited seminary or university must have been completed by the time the individual commences the period of research. Those applying for the Ph.D. in Biblical Counseling must have completed a Master of Arts in Biblical Counseling while those applying for the Ph.D. in an area of Christian Education must have completed a Master of Arts in Christian Education, or its equivalent. Individuals may be required to take additional masters-level courses to meet the prequisites of their desired area of study.
  • Scholarship: Applicants must have maintained an overall grade point average (GPA) of 3.3 in all graduate-level work.
  • Language Competency: The applicant will be expected to demonstrate collegiate level competency in two of the following research languages: Greek, Hebrew, German, Latin, or French. Language studies must be completed by the end of the second year of the period of research in the doctoral program or according to the guidelines detailed in the student’s acceptance letter. Contact the School of Church and Family Ministries Ph.D. Office for further details.
  • Ministry/Vocational Goal: The applicant must have demonstrated vocational intent as validated through study or work experiences accepted by the division of the chosen major field of study. In nearly every instance, the student is expected to be involved in ministry-related activities either in a paid or volunteer position during the period of study.
  • Church Relationship: The applicant must be an active participant in a local church.
  • Personal Attributes: The applicant must possess a well-balanced personality as evidenced by satisfactory characteristics in appropriate attitudes, moral conduct, and good physical health.

B. Application Process

Application Materials: Applicants will be required to submit the following application materials to the School of Church and Family Ministries Ph.D. Office.

  • Application Form - The Ph.D. application form is available for download on the Ph.D. website at or from the School of Church and Family Ministries Ph.D. Office.
  • Official Transcripts - Officials transcripts of all college, university, and seminary work must be sent to the Office of Admissions. Applicants with bachelor's and/or master's degrees obtained outside the United States should be aware that their transcripts are subject to evaluation prior to general application by World Education Services (WES), Bowling Green Station, P.O. Box 5087, New York, NY 10274-5087, telephone: 212-966-6311; fax: 212-739-6100;
  • Academic Potential Examination Scores - Applicants must complete the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) with an expected score of 153 on the verbal section, 144 on the quantitative section and a score of 4.5 on the analytical writing assessment. The GRE must have been taken within the past five (5) years. Applicants may choose to take the Miller Analogy Test (MAT) instead of the GRE. The expected score for the MAT is 400 or higher.
  • TOEFL Test Score (International Students Only) - International applicants whose first language is something other than English will be required to take the TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) with a minimum internet based score of 100. Please check with the School of Church and Family Ministries Ph.D. Office for the latest information regarding required standards for the TOEFL.
  • References - All applicants must provide references from three individuals who will attest to the call to ministry and Christian character. References can be submitted from previous graduate professors or current Church staff. The reference form is available for download on the Ph.D. website at or from the School of Church and Family Ministries Ph.D. Office.
  • Twenty-five page Research Paper - Each applicant is required to submit a twenty-five (25) page research paper related to their desired major field of study. This paper must be an original work and should provide evidence of highly developed research and writing skills. The form and style should follow the most recent editions of The Southwestern Seminary Style Manual available for download on the seminary website.

How to Apply: Individuals entering the Seminary for the first time must complete all general admission application procedures with the Office of Admissions. All Ph.D. Application Materials should be submitted to the School of Church and Family Ministries Ph.D. Office. Once all application materials have been received, the Ph.D. Office will schedule an entrance interview for the applicant.

Interviews: The applicant will be invited for a formal interview with the chosen major and minor divisions. This formal interview focuses on Christian experience, knowledge of the field, call to ministry, family relationships, and reasons for pursuing a doctorate. The major division reserves the right to require additional coursework or language testing as appropriate before approval will be granted for continuation of the application process.

When to Apply: Applicants must submit all application materials at least 30 days before the entrance interview. International applicants must submit all application materials at least 60 days prior to the entrance interview. Interviews are required prior to acceptance into the Ph.D. program and are held in April, May, June, and July for acceptance into the Fall semester, and in October, November, and December for acceptance into the Spring semester. These will be scheduled through the School of Church and Family Ministries Ph.D. Office.

Acceptance to the Program: The interviewing committee will make a recommendation to the Associate Dean of the Ph.D. program, who ultimately determines the acceptance of the applicant and any required leveling work. Upon approval of the Associate Dean, the applicant shall be accepted to the program.

  • Change of Majors: Before applicants or residents may change majors, they must be evaluated by the prospective division and must meet any requirements for entrance that may be imposed.
  • Provisional Acceptance: Applicants may be admitted into the period of research in a provisional status if they have passed all requirements for acceptance as outlined above, but do not possess certain qualifying courses that would equate to the Master of Arts in Christian Education degree, or who do not have certain courses specified by the major division. This provisional acceptance may require leveling courses in the following areas: Christian education, theological studies, or research languages.  These courses must be completed by the conclusion of the second year of residency or according to the guidelines detailed in the student’s acceptance letter.

Period of Research

The student will complete 3 orientation seminars, 1 advanced writing practicum, 11 major and minor seminars, and a supervised research and teaching component totaling 44 credit hours above the master's degree:

  • 5 seminars in a major field (20 hours)
  • 3 seminars in a minor field (12 hours)
  • 2 reading seminars; 1 general and 1 major (4 hours)
  • 3 orientation seminars, 1 advanced writing practicum, and 1 research seminar (6 hours)
  • Supervised Research and Teaching (independent study) (2 hours)

After successful completion of all seminars, the student will be required to pass an oral comprehensive examination covering their major and minor fields of study. Students are expected to prepare for the comprehensive examination throughout the entire seminar stage of the program. This ongoing preparation is noted on the transcript by enrollment in DOCTR 7000, Comprehensive Exam Preparation.


Upon successful completion of the comprehensive examination, the individual will enter into candidacy. The student will present to their Guidance Committee a prospectus for dissertation research. Upon approval by the Guidance Committee, the prospectus will be forwarded to the School of Church and Family Ministries Ph.D. Office for review by the Associate Dean. Once the prospectus is approved, the student will be allowed to begin work on the dissertation.


The award of the Doctor of Philosophy degree is awarded at the discretion of the School of Church and Family Ministries Ph.D. Office, the Faculty in general, and the administration of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Approval for graduation is contingent upon completion of all academic seminar requirements, successfully passing all proficiency examinations, and the writing and oral defense of the dissertation of research study that demonstrates a high level of competence and professionalism.


Tuition for the Ph.D. program is billed by semester, fall and spring, regardless of the number of hours the student is enrolled in. The tuition is $6,000 per semester. The Cooperative Program Scholarship reduces tuition for Southern Baptist students. Their tuition is $3,330 per semester. Research languages and other leveling courses are not included in this amount. These courses will be billed at the master level hourly rate and the conference course fee will apply if taken in that format. Tuition must be paid every semester until the student graduates from the program. This includes semesters when the student is preparing for their comprehensive examination or working on their dissertation.  More information pertaining to fees and tuition can be found on the Southwestern Seminary website.

Flex Access

Southwestern’s flexible access Ph.D. allows students to enroll in the doctoral program without relocating to Fort Worth. Though certain aspects of the program, such as orientations, the comprehensive exam, and the dissertation defense, must still be performed in-person, the remaining requirements may be fulfilled from anywhere in the world.  More information concerning Flex Access can be found on the Southwestern Seminary website. The Flex Access mode of delivery is being conducted as an approved educational experiment with the Associatioon of Theological Schools.

For more information regarding Ph.D. studies in the School of Church and Family Ministries, please email or call the Ph.D. Office at 817-923-1921 ext. 6039.

Established 1908 Fort Worth, Texas