Doctor of Philosophy

Information regarding the Doctor of Philosophy Degree for the School of Preaching which follows overviews the basic requirements for the degree.  Students enrolled in the program follow the current Doctor of Philosophy Student Handbook which is provided by the Director of the Research Doctoral Program, or online via the Doctor of Philosophy Student Handbook PDF.

The Ph.D. program prepares persons of exceptional ability to serve as teachers in specialized areas of theology and as pastors, chaplains, denominational leaders, or authors. The Ph.D. program emphasizes the attainment of expertise in a theological discipline, resting upon competence in both biblical and non-biblical languages through quality research and critical evaluative skills, resulting in a significant contribution to the student's field.  Ph.D. study requires a high degree of originality, independence, analytical research, judgment, and skill in articulating research findings.

Prerequisites for Admission

Applicants must hold a bachelor's degree from an accredited college or university and a master's degree in biblical and theological studies from a regionally accredited college, university, or seminary.  Acceptable master's degrees for entrance into the Ph.D. program include the Master of Theology (Th.M.) and the Master of Divinity (M.Div.). The Master of Arts in Theology (MA.Th.) may be acceptable for some majors depending on the overall content of the degree curriculum in relation to the desired area of study.

All applicants to the Ph.D. program must possess exegetical competence in both Biblical Greek and Hebrew.

Applicants must have a grade point average of 3.3 or higher in their graduate theological studies. If an applicant has not completed the degree program, transcripts verifying the possibility of attaining a 3.3 must be submitted before an application will be considered.

Applicants must complete elective work (typically four courses) in their desired field of study beyond the introductory courses required in a standard M.Div. degree. Admission decisions rest totally on the strength of the complete portfolio. Those deemed insufficiently prepared will be denied admission.

Application Process

Ph.D. applicants must apply for general admission to the seminary through the Office of admissions. For general admission to Southwestern Seminary and for general admission information, contact Southwestern's Office of Admissions.

International applicants must submit their transcripts to Span Tran for evaluation ( .  The evaluation service sends results directly to the Ph.D. office.

International applicants must complete the TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign language) with a minimum score of 100 on the internet-based test or 250 on the computer based test.  Students who do not complete the internet based TOEFL must also complete the TSE (Test of Spoken English).  International applicants who have successfully completed an accredited English-language based degree may be exempt from this requirement. For more information about the TOEFL, please visit

Each applicant must submit a substantial research paper on a subject in the student’s chosen major, representing the applicant’s best research and writing. The use of primary sources and biblical languages (where applicable) will be examined carefully. The argumentation of the paper, including the clarity of the thesis, evaluation of evidence, and exercise of critical thought (as opposed to descriptive treatments) plays an essential role in the faculty’s assessment of research papers. The form and style should follow either the Southwestern Seminary Manual of Style or the most recent edition of Turabian.

Each applicant must provide the Ph.D. office with the contact information (email address and phone number) of three former graduate level professors who will serve as the student's confidential academic references. Reference forms will be sent to each professor by email by the Ph.D. office. Each professor should return the reference form by email, by fax, or by mail directly to the Ph.D. office. If the reference form is sent by mail, the professor should sign his or her name across the seal of the envelope.

When all application materials have been received by the Ph.D. office, professors in the major department will interview qualified applicants.

Application Time Line

Timeframe Action
Academic year prior to beginning Ph.D. studies Preliminary Step: applicant submits application online through the Office of Admissions, and includes a list of required supplemental documents to support the application.
Last Friday in January/August Application Deadline: applicant must submit the Ph.D. application, official transcripts, Span Tran evaluation (if applicable), TOEFL (if applicable), two academic references, resume, and a substantial research paper.
First Monday in March/October Interview: applicants interview with the major field faculty.

Admissions Decisions

Ph.D. admission represents a competitive process whereby the most qualified applicants receive an invitation to enter the Ph.D. program. Admission to the Ph.D. program does not rest on a single factor, but on the strength of the entire portfolio, demonstrating readiness for Ph.D. work. Ph.D. program faculty in the applicant’s major and the Director for the Research Doctoral Program will evaluate the applicant’s fitness for doctoral studies. Students will be notified by mail after taking the entrance examinations whether they have been accepted into the Ph.D. program.

After all admissions materials have been compiled, the Department Chair meets with all faculty supervisors in the applicant’s major. After carefully reviewing all documents in an applicant’s portfolio, faculty supervisors in the student’s major field make admission recommendations to the Director of the Research Doctoral Program.

Applicants denied admission to the Ph.D. program may reapply only once. All application materials are confidential. The Director of the Research Doctoral Programs and faculty have no obligation to divulge information regarding admission decisions.

Admitted Ph.D. students may defer their admission one year without being required to reapply to the Ph.D. program.

Once accepted into the Ph.D. program, a student may not change the major field. Students desiring to pursue a different major must reapply to the Ph.D. program.

Cost of the Program

Each Ph.D. student is required to pay the Ph.D. studies fee each semester until the degree has been completed. Fees are established by the seminary administration, not by the School of Preaching Ph.D. office, and are subject to change.

Tuition* (per semester) $5,750.00
Tuition* - Southern Baptist (per semester, Cooperative Program Scholarship) $3,900.00

*Research language courses and other master's level courses are not included in the tuition fee for Ph.D. students.

Financial assistance is not available through the School of Preaching Ph.D. office. However, a Research Doctoral Grant is provided to Ph.D. students of good standing during the first eight semesters of their study at Southwestern Seminary. All inquiries regarding the grant or any other financial assistance should be made through the Student Financial Aid office of the seminary.

Research Language Requirements

The School of Preaching requires two research languages. Competency is demonstrated through the successful completion of research language examinations. For details on these examinations and means of language skill acquisition, contact the Ph.D. office. Research language requirements are also covered in the Ph.D. Student Handbook.  Research languages must be completed by students prior to enrolling in PhD research seminars.

Major Field Research Language Competencies:

Preaching and Pastoral Studies
  • Departmentally approved graduate-level courses in rhetorical theory or German, French, or Latin
  • Intermediate Logic (To meet this requirement, students must show proficiency in Modal, Symbolic, and Quantification Logic.)

Incoming students who are missionaries may petition their supervisor and the Director of the Research Doctoral Program to use an appropriate language from their mission field as a research language, provided that the language will serve as a research tool during doctoral studies. Language substitution petitions require the approval of the major supervisor and the Director of the Research Doctoral Program.

Minor Field Research Language Competencies:
Ph.D. program minors do not require additional language competencies.

Seminar Requirements

Incoming Ph.D students may need to enroll in Focused Field Studies, advanced master's electives in the student's major field, during the first year of Ph.D. studies. Faculty from the student's major field and the Ph.D. office will determine the Focused Field Studies coursework for each incoming Ph.D. student. If deemed exceptionally prepared by the faculty from the student's major field and the Ph.D. office, students may be exempted from this requirement.

The Ph.D. major comprises four reading seminars and four research seminars in a particular area of study.  The minor includes two reading seminars and two research seminars in its field.

In addition, students take a three-stage (three hours) Ph.D. orientation for three successive years. Part of the PhD orientation probes the nature and methods of research, argumentation, and style.

The Teaching in Higher Education Seminar (two hours) falls at the conclusion of the seminar stage.  This seminar introduces the standard organization and policies at institutions of higher education, pedagogy, and other issues of administrative philosophy.

Students must complete all seminars prior to taking comprehensive exams.  Students must successfully complete comprehensive exams before submitting a dissertation prospectus.

The Supervisory Committee must approve the selection of all seminars.

Ph.D. Majors and Minors

The Ph.D. program offers a major in preaching. Ph.D. students in the may apply to a minor in any area in which the seminary offers majors. Faculty supervisors in the minor field review applicant portfolios, making admissions recommendations to the Director of the Research Doctoral Program.

All Ph.D. applicants must declare their intended minor at the time of application. Students may petition their major supervisor and the Ph.D. office to minor in their major field. For more information, please contact the Ph.D. office.

Students must complete the comprehensive bibliography, reading seminars in the minor, and the comprehensive exam in their minor area.

Recommended Seminar Sequence

First Year

Fall Semester (Hours)                                 Spring Semester (Hours)

Introduction to Doctoral Research (1)           

Focused Field Study                                          Focused Field Study

Major Field Reading Seminar I (2)               Major Field Reading Seminar II (2)

Minor Field Reading Seminar I (2)               Minor Field Reading Seminar II (2)

Research Language Study*                             Research Language Study*

Summer of First Year

Reading Comprehensive Bibliography

Major Field Reading Seminar III (2)

Research Language Study*

Second Year

Fall Semester (Hours)                                        Spring Semester (Hours)

Research and Writing for Research

Graduate Studies (1)                                          

Research Seminar in Major Field (4)              Research Seminar in Major Field (4)

Research Seminar in Minor Field (4)              Research Seminar in Minor Field (4)

Summer of Second Year

Reading Comprehensive Bibliography

Major Field Reading Seminar IV (2)

Third Year

Fall Semester (Hours)                                   Spring Semester (Hours)

Dissertation Prospectus Preparation (1)   

Research Seminar in Major Field (4)          Comprehensive Exams     

Research Seminar in Major Field (4)          Submission of Dissertation Prospectus (8)

Teaching in Higher Education Seminar (2)

*Research language study is required but not credited as hours toward the Ph.D. degree.

Oral Comprehensive Examinations

Oral Comprehensive examinations require mastery of the field bibliographies distributed at the beginning of the student’s program. The major and minor supervisors may make minimal alterations to their respective bibliographies throughout the seminar stage, but no later than four months prior to the comprehensive examinations. Any change to a comprehensive bibliography must be communicated both to the student and to the Ph.D. office in writing.


The Ph.D. dissertation must argue for a clearly articulated thesis which constitutes a contribution to scholarship in its field. It should demonstrate the candidate’s ability to design a viable research project, pursue the research in relative independence, and write with clarity and force.

Flex Ph.D. Program

Southwestern Seminary offers a “flex” approach for distance Ph.D. students to access reading and research seminars with synchronous flexibility through the use of Zoom. Whereas traditional online education is an asynchronous learning experience in which the student reads and views materials that have been posted for a class, the virtual flex access is a synchronous participation in a live classroom experience. The virtual student is “present” audibly and visually in the classroom with students who are physically present. The educational experience, in presentation and discussion, takes place in real time. Students wanting to attend reading and/or research seminars through the flexible access option must obtain the written approval of their major and minor supervisors (through the registration form) and submit this written approval to the Ph.D. office for registration purposes. The Association of Theological Schools has given Southwestern approval to offer PhD flex access.

Additional Information

For additional information about Ph.D. studies, please contact the Ph.D. office:

Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary
P.O. Box 22448
Fort Worth, TX  76122-0448
817-923-1921, ext. 4650