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A person who wants a Doctor of Divinity degree may study formally at academic institutions, contribute significantly to his community or church, or pay for the title. Of these three options, the first carries the most weight and respect; people often assume this is the path people who use "Doctor" after their name have taken. The second option is still respected, but it is not an earned academic degree. The last option is the easiest, but is more controversial within churches.
In many areas of the world, the Doctor of Divinity degree is an earned academic degree. To obtain this title, individuals first must enter an undergraduate program and get a bachelor's degree in an area such as religious studies or theology. They then must complete a master's program with a similar focus. With the master's program completed, individuals may apply at accredited academic institutions and enter formal doctoral programs. These programs build on the lower-level courses such as Biblical ethics, Bible history, ministry, homiletics and systematic theology, holding additional requirements such as a dissertation, evidence of community service and letters of recommendation.
In some areas such as the United States, the Doctor of Divinity is not an earned academic degree and instead is an honorary title. When a person has contributed significantly to their community through religious leadership, his church or an academic facility affiliated with his church may determine that the individual is eligible to receive the degree. The point at which a person's accomplishments become distinguished enough to warrant the honorary title varies, but often, the recipient must be ordained as a minister. In many instances, to receive the title, the individual must submit a dissertation on a religious topic, a statement of personal faith and a formal application. This work is not nearly as rigorous as earning an academic doctorate, but the institution issuing the Doctor of Divinity degree still has evidence that the recipient understands and is committed to his faith.
The simplest way to get an honorary doctorate is to find a religious institution that is willing to issue the degree in return for a payment, which usually is called a "requested donation." This can be done online, with the recipient paying with on online escrow account or credit or debit card. Sometimes the amount required to purchase the title is only several dollars. This type of Doctor of Divinity degree typically does not qualify an individual to officiate at events such as weddings, but it may legally permit the recipient to call himself "Doctor," regardless of how misleading that may be to those who associate doctorates with formal study.
Don't get me started about people who pay diploma mills for a Doctor of Divinity degree. I mean, really. Don't get me started. Especially don't get me started about people who get their "doctorates" through correspondence courses from unaccredited schools. Makes my blood boil.
A legitimate doctorate usually takes at least two years of intense work. A candidate may or may not write a dissertation, depending on the seminary, but he or she will do enough work to make up for a dissertation. The candidate will also usually take classes in New Testament Greek and in Hebrew in order to learn to translate the Bible from the original language.
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