Doctor of Philosophy

The Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) 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’ 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 Biblical Counseling, Family Ministry, and Women's Ministry
  • Missionaries serving worldwide in any of the above fields

Program Information

Students are required to complete all aspects of their Ph.D. studies within seven (7) calendar years of when they begin seminar work. The majority of students complete the period of research in approximately 3 years before moving on to dissertation writing. Students must be enrolled every semester once they begin their program until they have graduated.

Major and Minor Areas of Study

A major must be selected at the time of application from the following list.

  • Administration
  • Biblical Counseling
  • Foundations of Education
  • Family and Generational Studies

A minor must also be selected at the time of application. Minor options within our school include the following:

  • Family and Generational Studies
  • Childhood Ministry
  • Family Ministry
  • Student Ministry
  • Women's Ministry
  • Foundations of Education
  • Biblical Counseling
  • Adminsitration
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.

Period of Research

The student will complete the following components of the program totaling 52 credit hours above the master's degree:

  • 3 orientation seminars (3 hours)
    Orientations are held for three days each August during the student's first three years in the Ph.D. program.
  • Advanced Academic Writing Practicum (2 hours)
  • 4 reading seminars: 1 general, 2 major, and 1 minor (8 hours)
  • 4 seminars in a major field (16 hours)
  • 2 seminars in a minor field (8 hours)
  • Supervised Research and Teaching (2 hours)
  • Comprehensive Exam Reading Preparation (1 hour)
  • Colloquium (2 hours)
  • Research seminar (2 hours)
  • Dissertation (8 hours)
Comprehensive Examination

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.


After the oral comprehensive examination has been completed, 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 approval by the Associate Dean. Once the prospectus is approved, the student will be allowed to begin work on their dissertation.


Candidates are required to complete a dissertation (125 page minimum) under the supervision of their Guidance Committee. Upon the completion of this dissertation, students will defend the dissertation before a committee comprised of faculty members from their major and minor fields of study. The student is eligible for graduation after successfully defending their dissertation.


The award of the Doctor of Philosophy degree is conferred 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.

Ecclesiological Understanding

The Doctor of Philosophy degree in the School of Church and Family Ministries is taught in an American Church context and leads to qualification to train those who will lead various ministries in local churches. Therefore, the faculty finds that a substantial understanding of the local church in America is essential to the completion of this degree. All students are required to demonstrate a full understanding of the local church in an American context before graduation. Experience in American local church ministry leadership is expected. This experience can be gained through volunteer service, but paid staff work is preferred to meet this requirement. Each student will demonstrate such understanding to the satisfaction of the faculty, either through written or oral interview as required by the faculty in each situation, prior to graduation. This interview can be included in the defense of the student’s dissertation.

Degree Outline
General Seminars

Course Title

Course Number


Orientation I—Introduction to Doctoral Research

RSTCH 7551


Orientation II—Research and Writing for Graduate Studies

RSTCH 7561


Orientation III—Dissertation Prospectus Preparation

RSTCH 7571


Advanced Academic Writing Practicum

RSRCH 7002


General Reading Seminar

RSRCH 7102


Supervised Research and Teaching

_______ 8502



RSRCH 7202


Comprehensive Exam Reading Preparation

_______ 8601


Research Seminar

RSRCH 7152





Major Seminars

Course Title

Course Number


Major Reading Seminar I*

_______ 7002


Major Reading Seminar II*

_______ 7012


(Major Seminar I)

_______ ____


(Major Seminar II)

_______ ____


(Major Seminar III)

_______ ____


(Major Seminar IV)

_______ ____





Minor Seminars

Course Title

Course Number


Minor Reading Seminar I*

_______ 7002  or _______ 7012


(Minor Seminar I)

_______ ____


(Minor Seminar II)

_______ ____






Course Title

Course Number


Continuous Enrollment

RSRCH 8040


Dissertation in Progress

RSRCH 8050


Successful Dissertation Defense

RSRCH 8058






Degree Total


*Course titles will reflect either your major or minor (e.g. CNSLN, FOUND, STMIN, etc.) and will be numbered according to semester taken (e.g. 7002-fall only; 7012-spring only). Reading seminars are non-sequential and may be taken in any order.

Seminar Schedule
Ph.D. Academic Plan
Year One




Orientation I (first fall)

Major Reading Seminar II

(Comprehensive Exam Reading)

Advanced Writing Practicum (first fall)

Major Seminar I


General Reading Seminar (first fall)

Major Reading Seminar I



Year Two




Orientation II (second fall)

Major Seminar III

(Comprehensive Exam Reading)

Minor Reading Seminar I

Minor Seminar I


Major Seminar II

Supervised Research and Teaching1


Year Three




Orientation III (third fall)

Research Seminar (final spring)


Major Seminar IV

Colloquium (final spring)


Minor Seminar II

Comprehensive Exam Reading Preparation



Comprehensive Examination

Submission of Dissertation Prospectus

Completion of Dissertation

1At least two (2) seminars in the student’s major field of study must be completed prior to registration for Supervised Research and Teaching.

Flex Access

Southwestern Seminary’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 Association of Theological Schools.


Entrance Requirements
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 or its equivalent. 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 master's-level courses to meet the prerequisites of their desired area of study.


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.

Application Process
How to Apply

All applicants, including current, former, and future students, must apply for the Ph.D. program through the Office of Admissions. The application along with a list of all required supplementary materials is available online at Applicants will create an account through which they can track progress during the application process. Once the application and all supplementary application materials have been submitted, the Ph.D. Office will schedule an entrance interview for the applicant.

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. Interviews are scheduled by the School of Church and Family Ministries Ph.D. Office.

Background Check

Applicants must complete a background check.

Official Transcripts

Official transcripts from 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 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;

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 edition of The Southwestern Seminary Style Manual available for download on the seminary website.


Applicants must submit a current résumé.

Church Endorsement

Applicants must have a church representative complete the Church Endorsement Form.


All applicants must provide references from two (2) individuals who will attest to the call to ministry and Christian character. References can be submitted from previous graduate professors or current church staff.

TOEFL Test Score (International Students Only)

International applicants whose first language is not English are 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.


The applicant is 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 is granted for continuation of the application process.

Acceptance to the Program

The interviewing committee shall 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.

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 Southwestern Seminary 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.


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 $4,700 per semester. The Cooperative Program Scholarship reduces tuition for Southern Baptist students. Their tuition is $3,700 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.

Inquiries regarding billing may be directed to the Business Office at 817-923-1921 ext. 2400,

Financial assistance is available through the Financial Aid Office, 817-923-1921 ext. 3080,

Contact Information

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. 4650

Mailing Address:

Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary
Attn: Ph.D. Office
P.O. Box 22140
Fort Worth, TX 76122

Fax: 817-921-8767

Established 1908 Fort Worth, Texas