What Does a Doctor of Theology Do?

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  • Written By: Lainie Petersen
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 26 February 2020
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Somebody who holds a doctorate of theology degree may be employed in a variety of contexts, including academia, local church ministry, or within religious organizations and denominations. Other possible occupations for a doctor of theology include working in the area of writing and publishing, doing consulting work, or working in the mission field. The work of somebody who holds this degree will largely depend on his own vocational goals as well as his willingness and ability to continue publishing in his area of specialization. Other factors may include the availability of work in the degree holder's religious context.

A doctor of theology holds a doctoral-level terminal academic degree that represents its holder's ability to complete a dissertation of original research that was accepted by the faculty at the holder's university. The focus of the degree may vary according to the programs offered by the awarding institution. For example, it is possible for a doctor of theology to hold a degree in the areas of theological ethics, liturgical studies, or church history. As such, the specialization of the degree research will often point to the career opportunities its holder will have after graduation.


Many individuals who pursue doctoral degrees intend to embark on a career in scholarship. Typically, a person who holds a doctorate of theology will attempt to obtain a position teaching at a college or university. In some cases, however, a doctoral degree holder may also take a teaching position in a secondary school that has a religious affiliation. Once a person takes an academic position, she is usually expected to contribute to scholarship in her field by regularly publishing articles in journals, writing books, and making presentations at conferences. This research and writing must take place while the scholar also teaches classes.

Some individuals who hold a doctorate of theology may choose to become independent scholars. While they may still publish in academic journals and present at conferences, they may not be affiliated with a particular university. They may also choose to write and publish for popular markets rather than focusing on producing academic works. Those with strong writing and language skills may also become journalists or even editors at religious publishing houses.

It is also not unusual for a doctor of theology to use his or her education in an area of practical ministry or church governance. Leaders of religious congregations may obtain doctoral-level degree to enhance their ministries and increase their employment prospects. In addition, officials in denominations or religious organizations may hold a doctoral-level degree, which can enhance their effectiveness in making leadership decisions and working with the clergy and laity under their supervision and care.


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