How Do I Become a Doctor of Theology?

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  • Written By: Gabriele Sturmer
  • Edited By: Angela B.
  • Last Modified Date: 20 November 2019
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A doctor of theology (Th.D.) degree prepares you for research and teaching jobs in universities and for jobs in the ministry as a religious educator or church leader. The process to become a doctor of theology involves completing courses in foreign languages, theology, religious history, leadership and the Bible, and it ends with comprehensive examinations, a written dissertation and an oral defense of it before a committee. Having a master's degree related to theology, knowing a foreign language, passing various types of graduate entrance exams and completing an interview also are prerequisites for joining a doctor of theology program.

Before you can become a doctor of theology, you need a master's degree in theology or divinity and some knowledge of foreign languages. Some schools require you to take additional courses if you have a different master's degree or if your master's degree did not include enough language courses. There's a lot of testing involved before you can enter a doctor of theology program, including graduate school entrance tests, foreign language proficiency exams and, possibly, pre-matriculation exams that cover theological topics. Interviews, work experience, recommendations and entrance essays also are common requirements.


The coursework required to become a doctor of theology typically includes courses in Bible study, youth and family ministry, leadership, religious history, psychology and advanced theological concepts. Students take a list of required courses and electives but also may have the option to do directed study projects. Most Th.D. programs have a foreign language requirement that involves taking language courses and final language proficiency exams. Common languages studied include Greek, Hebrew, Arabic and German, and many colleges require you to learn two languages. Students are expected to complete two or more years of coursework with a minimum grade point average, and they also may perform research or work as a teacher's assistant during the process.

The final steps if you want to become a doctor of theology include taking comprehensive exams and writing an extensive thesis. You will usually take multiple exams that deal with different theological concepts covered in the coursework, including both written and oral exams. After passing the exams and applying to become a doctoral candidate, you will begin working on your thesis proposal, which has to be approved before you can begin working on your dissertation. The dissertation process can take years and ends with an oral defense before a committee. After you pass your exams and complete your dissertations, you become a doctor of theology.


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