Doctor of Philosophy

Information regarding the Doctor of Philosophy Degree for the School of Theology 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 Office of the Associate Dean for the School of Theology Ph.D. 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 relationship to the desired area of study.

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

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 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 and must also apply simultaneously for admission to the Ph.D. program. For general admission to Southwestern Seminary and for general admission information, contact Southwestern's Office of Admissions. Prospective Ph.D. students must pursue specific admission to the School of Theology Ph.D. program through the School of Theology Ph.D. office. The Ph.D. Application may be obtained by contacting that office.

International applicants must submit their transcripts to the World Education Services (www.wes.org) for evaluation.  The evaluation service sends results directly to the School of Theology Ph.D. office.

Each applicant must submit scores from the Graduate Record Exam General Test (GRE).  The GRE should be taken at least four months prior to the entrance examination and must have been taken no more than five years prior to applying for admission to Southwestern’s Ph.D. program. Applicants must take the GRE at a testing center since Southwestern Seminary does not administer the GRE.  The GRE may be taken more than once, but only one score will be considered with the application. Each applicant must take the Verbal, Quantitative, and Analytical Writing portions of the General Test. For more information about the GRE, please visit http://www.ets.org/gre/revised_general/register.

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 http://www.ets.org/toefl.

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 School of Theology 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 School of Theology Ph.D. office. Each professor should return the reference form by email, by fax, or by mail directly to the School of Theology 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.

Each prospective Ph.D. student completes an entrance examination in the applicant's major field which probes the applicant's knowledge of the major field and tests the ability to organize and express his or her thoughts logically and clearly.  Entrance examinations require two hours.  The School of Theology Ph.D. office notifies students of the time, date, and place for the entrance examination.  Study aids for the entrance examination are available.

When all application materials have been received by the School of Theology 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 requests application materials from the School of Theology Ph.D. office and receives application forms, including a list of required documents to support the application.
Last Friday in January/August Application Deadline: applicant must submit the Ph.D. application, official transcripts, GRE scores, WES (if applicable), TOEFL (if applicable), and a substantial research paper.
Second Friday in February/September Intent to Sit for Entrance Exams: applicants invited to take the entrance exams must confirm by returning the reservation form sent with the invitation.
First Monday in March/October Entrance Exams and Interview: applicants write the entrance examination in their major field and 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 School of Theology 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 Associate Dean for the Ph.D. Program 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 Associate Dean for the Ph.D. Program.

Applicants denied admission to the Ph.D. program may reapply only once. All application materials are confidential. The Associate Dean for the Ph.D. Program 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 general matriculation fee and all student fees of the institution as well as 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 Theology Ph.D. office, and are subject to change.

Tuition* - Southern Baptist (per semester, Cooperative Program Scholarship) $2,800.00
Tuition* - Non-Southern Baptist (per semester) $5,600.00

*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 Theology 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

Each major in the School of Theology requires two research languages.

Major Field Research Language Competencies:

Biblical Studies

Old Testament, New Testament, Archaeology

  • German
  • French
Theological Studies

Systematic Theology, Church History and Historical Theology

  • German
  • Latin
Ethics and Philosophical Studies

Christian Ethics, Philosophy of Religion

  • Intermediate Logic (To meet this requirement, students must show proficiency in Modal, Symbolic, and Quantification Logic.)
  • German, French, or Latin
Preaching and Pastoral Studies

Preaching, Pastoral Studies

  • Departmentally approved graduate-level courses in rhetorical theory
  • 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 Associate Dean for the PhD 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 Associate Dean for the Ph.D. Program.

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

Seminar Requirements

All incoming PhD students will enroll in two semesters of Focused Field Study, advanced master's electives in the student's major field, during the first year of PhD studies. Faculty from the student's major field and the School of Theology PhD office will determine the Focused Field Study coursework for each incoming PhD student. If deemed exceptionally prepared by the faculty from the student's major field and the School of Theology PhD 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 the Graduate Research Seminar (two hours) during the first year of seminars unless they have already taken it as part of their Th.M. program.  The Graduate Research Seminar 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

The School of Theology Ph.D. program offers the following areas of study (majors) within its divisions:

Biblical Studies

  • Old Testament
  • New Testament
  • Archaeology

Theological Studies

  • Systematic Theology
  • Church History and Historical Theology*

*All Church History and Historical Theology majors must choose one of the following specializations in lieu of a minor:

  • Early Church Studies
  • Reformation Studies
  • Baptist and Free Church Studies
  • Modern Church Studies

Ethics and Philosophical Studies

  • Christian Ethics
  • Philosophy of Religion

Preaching and Pastoral Studies

  • Preaching
  • Pastoral Studies

Faculty availability and specializations determine seminar offerings.

Ph.D. Minors

Ph.D. students in the School of Theology 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 Associate Dean for the Ph.D. Program.

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

The School of Theology Ph.D. program offers the following minors within its divisions:

Biblical Studies

  • Old Testament
  • New Testament
  • New Testament Theology (minor for New Testament majors only)
  • Biblical Theology
  • Archaeology

Theological Studies

  • Systematic Theology
  • Church History and Historical Theology
  • Early Church Studies
  • Reformation Studies
  • Baptist and Free Church Studies
  • Modern Church Studies

Ethics and Philosophical Studies

  • Christian Ethics
  • Philosophy of Religion

Preaching and Pastoral Studies

  • Preaching
  • Pastoral Studies

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

School of Theology Ph.D. majors may apply to any minor field offered by the Fish School of Evangelism and Missions.

Recommended Seminar Sequence

First Year

Fall Semester (Hours)                                         Spring Semester (Hours)

Graduate Research Seminar (2)

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 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)

Research Seminar in Major Field (4)                   Comprehensive Exams         

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

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 School of Theology Ph.D. office in writing.

Dissertation

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.

Additional Information

For additional information about Ph.D. studies in the School of Theology, please contact the School of Theology Ph.D. office:

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

Established 1908 Fort Worth, Texas