Best PhD in Theology Programs in 2024

January 26, 2024 | Admin

PhD in Theology
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The study of religion and theology is the study of spiritual beliefs and their impact upon people, their behaviors, and religious practices in society. Theology degree programs are available at the baccalaureate and master’s levels. However, many students choose to further their education by earning a post-master’s degree from one of the many quality PhD in Theology degree programs available online, on-campus, or hybrid delivery of both methods.

PhD in Theology degree programs offer degree candidates the opportunity to integrate (or, if they prefer, to specialize) in topics of interest that often include the related-studies of philosophy, history, and anthropology, among others. This integrative approach encourages students to personally interpret and understand the context of religious beliefs and practices, historically and currently. Doctoral theological students immerse themselves in the study of the divine, examining existing and proposing new approaches to spiritual development through the academic pursuit of a theological degree.

Those who hold a doctorate in theology will often seek positions of leadership in the church, managing volunteer organizations, or become bible scholars and educators.  And while PhD in theology degree programs may study any religious philosophy, most doctoral theological programs in the United States are devoted to the study of Christianity.

PhD in Theology degree programs offer degree candidates extensive training in ministerial duties (and effectual communication techniques). At the same time, they explore religious text interpretations and insights in ways that can be put to practical use for today’s parishioners and communities. Although a theology doctorate program varies in length from school and school (and student to student), most doctoral candidates complete the program in two to seven years.

These Doctor of Philosophy degree in theology programs are offered online and on-campus. Several quality programs are listed below that are available online and those on-campus.

PhD in Theology Programs – On-campus

1. Dallas Theological Seminary (Texas)

Founded as an evangelical non-denominational school in 1924, Dallas Theological Seminary (DTS) offers a 61-credit unit Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) degree in Theology from its Dallas campus. DTS’ Ph.D. in theology degree program includes two stages, the first completing master’s level work (26 credit units) and a second stage to complete the doctoral requirements (35 credit hours including dissertation). Candidates for this Doctor of Philosophy degree can opt for an academic track in theological studies or an academic track of biblical studies. Graduates from DTS’ Ph.D. in theology degree programs.

  • Tuition – $ 5,517 per semester (9 credits)
  • Programs Offered
    • Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Theology – Theological Studies
    • Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Theology – Biblical Studies
  • Time to Completion – Typically four years, but most students finish in 5 or 6 years
  • Student Enrollment – 2,419
  • Accreditation – SACSCOC

2. Fordham University (New York)

The Graduate School of Arts & Science is located at Fordham University in the NYC borough of the Bronx. This school offers Ph.D. in Theology degree programs that offer doctoral candidates five fields of study – the history of Christianity, the Bible, systematic theology, Judaism & Christianity in antiquity, history, or theological  & social ethics. Earning this 66-credit doctoral degree from Fordham University allows for candidates to become valued members of the school’s theological academy. Classes for this degree include investing in Christianity, God in Contemporary Theology, and Catholic Social Thought, among others.

  • Tuition – $ 13,914 per semester (9 credits)
  • Programs Offered – Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Theology
  • Time to Completion – average completion time for students enrolled after 2009 is seven years
  • Student Enrollment – 16,972
  • Accreditation – MSCHE

3. Union Theological Seminary (New York)

Established in 1836, Union Theological Seminary (UTS), which is affiliated with Columbia University, is recognized as the oldest seminary operating independently in the nation. UTS holds the distinction of being home to some of the most progressive Christian scholars and the home of one of the western hemisphere’s largest academic libraries dedicated to theological works. The Ph.D. in Theology program offered by Union Theological Seminary offers doctoral candidates a minor concentration in history, bible, interreligious engagement, practical theology, and theology & ethics.

  • Tuition – $ 17,568 per semester in residency, full-time.
  • Programs Offered – Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Theology
  • Time to Completion – Typically 4 – 5 years, students can take up to seven years to finish
  • Student Enrollment – 266
  • Accreditation: ABHE, SACSCOC

4. Vanderbilt University (Tennessee)

Located in Nashville, Vanderbilt University’s Graduate Department of Religion offers a 72-credit unit Ph.D. in Theology Religion with a concentration in Theological Studies that requires doctoral candidates to demonstrate reading in two modern languages. Additionally, doctoral candidates enrolled in Vanderbilt University’s Ph.D. in theology degree programs must pass four doctor of philosophy qualifying exams, including a dissertation. The first two exams are more standardized, and the last two exams are more specialized to align with the doctoral candidate’s research and academic interests. Vanderbilt encourages postgraduate candidates to seek out scholarships and aid during their studies from the Department of Religion.

  • Tuition – $ 18,783 per semester (9 credits)
  • Programs Offered – Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Religion with a concentration in Theological Studies
  • Time to Completion – Typically 4 – 5 years.
  • Student Enrollment – 13,131
  • Accreditation – SACSCOC, ATS

5. The University of Notre Dame (Indiana)

The University of Notre Dame (Notre Dame) Department of Theology offers a PhD in Theology that is considered among North America’s best PhD in theology degree programs. Notre Dame’s 42-credit unit doctoral program in theology offers six areas of concentration in systematic theology, moral theology/Christian ethics, liturgical studies, history of Christianity, Judaism/Christianity in Antiquity, and world religions. Additionally, students can opt for joint programs that include theology/philosophy of science or peace studies/theology. Students complete the program with three days of written exams and a 1.5-hour oral exam, plus a dissertation. This program is accredited by ATS – the Association of Theological Schools.

  • Tuition  – $ 28,690 per semester – stipends eligible for full-time students.
  • Programs Offered – Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Theology
  • Time to Completion – Typically four years, but most students finish in 5 or 6 years; students completing the program in five years are eligible for a teaching fellowship
  • Student Enrollment – 12,681
  • Accreditation – ATS, Higher Learning Commission

Ph.D. in Theology Programs – Online

1. Columbia International University (South Carolina – Online)

Columbia International University (CIU) offers several of the most affordable Ph.D. in theology degree programs available in the education marketplace. Each of them requires 45 credit hours to graduate, including the creation, presentation, and defense of a dissertation. Students graduate from CIU’s Doctor of Philosophy programs in theology to find rewarding careers as higher education scholars, theological consultants, or academic deans, to name a few. CIU’s program is totally online and has the necessary accreditation to bring value to the degree.

  • Tuition – $ 4,005 per semester (9 credits)
  • Programs Offered
    • Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Practical Theology
    • Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Theological Studies
  • Time to Completion – Typically three years studying full-time, but part-time students finish in 5 years
  • Student Enrollment – 1,849
  • Accreditation – ABHE, SACSCOC

2. Clarks Summit University (Pennsylvania Online)

The Baptist Bible Seminary, at Clarks Summit University, located just outside Scranton, is a private higher learning institution that was established in 1932. Clarks Summit University offers discounts on tuition for alumni, military members or veterans, or Word of Life Fellowship interns/employees. Doctoral candidates have the option of choosing from four academic emphases – bible exposition, new testament, old testament, and systematic theology. Most students are required to complete 60 credit units unless they enter the program already possessing a Th.M. degree, in which then the candidate will only need 29 credit units. The program has a residency requirement, so it isn’t totally online.

  • Tuition – $ 6,255 per semester (9 credits)
  • Programs Offered – Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Theology
  • Time to Completion – Typically three years studying full-time; however, part-time students finish in 5 years
  • Student Enrollment – 771
  • Accreditation – MSCHE, ABHE

3. Regent University (Virginia – Online with Residency)

Regent University’s School of Divinity offers one of the best online Ph.D. theology degrees in the nation through their Ph.D. in Renewal Theology. Courses are delivered fully online. A two-week, on-campus residency in Virginia Beach is required each semester. The residency program is designed for pastors, educators, and missionaries to study while remaining in their ministry context; therefore, enabling you to stay in your work and/or ministry setting and only travel to campus for residencies each semester (fall, spring, and summer). Accredited by The Commission on Accrediting of the Association of Theological Schools in the United States and Canada (ATS), this degree will enhance your research and insight. It will also prepare you to contribute to the wider conversation of the theological academy from a Renewal perspective and equip emerging church leaders across the globe. Choose from four concentrations. To learn more about one of the fastest-growing seminaries in the nation, visit regent.edu/div.

  • Tuition – $3,900 per semester (full-time), $1,950 per semester (part-time)
  • Programs Offered: Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Renewal Theology with concentrations in:
    • Biblical Studies
    • Christian Theology
    • Church History
    • Practical Theology
  • Time to Completion – 4-7 years (60 credit hours) depending on how long it takes to complete dissertation, coursework can be finished in 2.5-3 years
  • Student Enrollment – 10,425
  • Accreditation – SACSCC, CHEA, ATS

4. Florida Christian University (Florida Online)

Florida Christian University (FCU), located in Central Florida in Orlando, offers a 60-credit unit Doctor of Philosophy Degree in Theology that is available totally online. Additionally, FCU’s Ph.D. in theology degree programs are available in English, Spanish, and Portuguese. Coursework for this doctoral degree includes assessment for excellence, spiritual authority, apologetics, and mission theology, plus scientific investigation and a written and defensible dissertation. FCU is licensed in accordance with the Florida Department of Education’s Independent Education Commission.

  • Tuition – $ 1,170 per semester (9 credits)
  • Programs Offered – Doctor of Philosophy Degree in Theology
  • Time to Completion – most students finish in 2 to 5 years, depending on their available time commitment
  • Student Enrollment – 1,088
  • Accreditation – None

5. Trinity College of the Bible & Theological Seminary  (Indiana Online)

Trinity College’s School of Biblical Thought & Theological Studies (Trinity), established in 1969, offers some of the most affordable Ph.D. in theology degree programs in Indiana. Trinity offers a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Theology that requires 49 credit units to meet the doctoral program’s requirements. The program is totally online.

  • Tuition – $ 2,187 per semester (9 credits)
  • Programs Offered – Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Theology
  • Time to Completion – Most students finish in 3 to 6 years
  • Student Enrollment – 7,000
  • Accreditation – None

Our Analysis/Ranking Methodology

The institutions of higher education noted above represent a cross-section of some of the available Ph.D. in Theology degree programs offered across the United States.

Ph.D. in Theology degree programs are unique to each school and further personalized by each doctoral candidate’s educational and career objectives. As such, the costs to complete these programs vary and are calculated on a school-by-school basis. However, these innate variations to the costs of most Ph.D. in Theology programs can make it challenging for prospective students to compare programs from a strictly financial viewpoint. We ranked the above schools by tuition, giving significant preference to those that are accredited.

The information and data used to amass this list of quality Ph.D. in Theology programs have been extracted from the school’s proprietary website or College Navigator website managed by the NCES. Unless otherwise noted, tuition information (per credit or per semester) represents the costs for the academic year of 2020 – 2021.

Additionally, the time to complete the many Ph.D. in Theology degree programs varies as much as the programs’ contents and costs. However, the average completion time for this program has been included for additional guidance to potential doctoral candidates.

The college or university’s enrollment data for students is indicative of the relative size of the school.

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