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 Ph.D. degree is designed specifically for the preparation of highly specialized and competent professionals for leadership and teaching in Christian Education in the local church and in other settings. Through this program, the student will engage in sound scholarship, meaningful research, and the interdependence of theology, philosophy, theory, and practice. The Ph.D. degree is conferred on the basis of high scholarship and research skill demonstrated by the student’s resident work, 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 and must be selected at the time of application.


A. Entrance Requirements

  • General Seminary Admission: Applicants entering the 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.
  • Educational Foundations: An earned bachelor's degree from an accredited college or university and a master's degree in Christian Education, Biblical Counseling, or its equivalent from an accredited seminary or university must have been completed by the time the individual commences resident study. Individuals may be required to take additional master's level courses to meet the prequisites of their desired area of study.
  • Scholarship: In order to apply for the program, an individual must have maintained an overall grade point average (GPA) of 3.3 in all graduate-level work.
  • Academic Potential Examinations: 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.
  • International Students: 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.
  • Language Competency: The applicant will be expected to demonstrate graduate level competency in two of the following research languages: Greek, Hebrew, German, Latin, French, or Statistics. Language studies must be completed by the end of the second year of residence in the doctoral program. 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

When to Apply: Submit a completed application [including recommendation forms, research paper, documentation of language requirements, GRE/MAT scores, transcripts, and TOEFL/TSE/TWE scores, if applicable] at least one month before the applicant interview with the Faculty. Interviews are required prior to acceptance into the Ph.D. program and are held typically 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.

  • How to Apply: Download the application form here. Individuals entering the Seminary for the first time shall also submit a general admissions form to the Admissions Office. Southwestern graduates must update their general seminary application with the Office of the Registrar.
    • Select one major and one minor area of desired study and confer with the Chair of the major division.
    • Provide official transcripts of all college, university, and seminary work to the School of Church and Family Ministries Ph.D. Office.
    • Submit acceptable GRE/MAT, Language Proficiency, and TOEFL scores to the School of Church and Family Ministries Ph.D. Office.
    • 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.
    • 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 the World Education Services (WES), Bowling Green Station, P.O. Box 5087, New York, NY 10274-5087, telephone: 212-966-6311; fax: 212-739-6100;
    • Applicants may be required to complete additional courses to meet equivalency requirements.
    • Submit the completed application along with a research paper of at least 25 pages on a subject related to the applicant’s requested major field of study. This paper becomes a part of the applicant’s portfolio. The paper should be an original work, and should give evidence of highly developed research and writing skills. The form and style shall follow the most recent edition of The Southwestern Seminary Style Manual.
  • 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 division reserves the right to require additional coursework or language testing as appropriate before approval will be granted for continuation of the application process. An applicant must be recommended by a major division before consideration will be made by the School of Church and Family Ministries Ph.D. Office.
    • 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.
  • Academic Entrance Requirements: Upon approval of the Associate Dean, the applicant shall be accepted to the program following the interview.
    • Those applying for the Ph.D. in Biblical Counseling must have completed a Master of Arts in Biblical Counseling, or its equivalent from an accredited seminary or university.
    • 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 from an accredited seminary or university.
  • 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 residency 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.


The student will complete 12 seminars of academic work and supervised research & teaching (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)
  • 2 seminars in research (6 hours)
  • Supervised Research and Teaching (independent study) (2 hours)

Upon completion of residency, the student will be required to complete the comprehensive examination in the major and minor areas of resident study. Students are expected to prepare for the comprehensive examination throughout 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 review by the Associate Dean.  Once the prospectus is approved, the student will be allowed to begin work on the dissertation.


Upon successful completion of the comprehensive examination, the individual will enter into candidacy. The student is expected to remain in candidacy a minimum of one year from acceptance of the dissertation prospectus to the date of graduation.


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.

For more information regarding Ph.D. studies in the School of Church and Family Ministries, please email

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